FBI Issues Warning on Smart TV Hacks

The FBI has determined that certain smart TVs with built-in microphones and cameras can be hacked, providing criminals with a way inside an unsecured home network.

Rodney Bosch

As the holiday season nears, it is a great time for integrators to remind their clients of the important safeguards they take to prevent their smart homes from being hacked. The FBI recently issued a specific warning on the vulnerability of smart TVs, which is information integrators can use to showcase their cybersecurity skills with clients.

The latest TVs are oftentimes equipped with built-in microphones and cameras, which allow users to communicate instructions to the TV or by using facial recognition. With these new feature sets, therein lies the danger for consumers and an opportunity for hackers.

“Beyond the risk that your TV manufacturer and app developers may be listening and watching you, that television can also be a gateway for hackers to come into your home. A bad cyber actor may not be able to access your locked-down computer directly, but it is possible that your unsecured TV can give him or her an easy way in the backdoor through your router,” the blog post reads.

At a minimum, hackers can take control of the TV and change channels, adjust the volume or even play inappropriate videos. “In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you,” the FBI warning states.

To prevent a malicious intrusion, the FBI recommends that smart TV owners and installers educate themselves on the device’s security settings, which can be found with a basic Internet search using the model number and the words “microphone,” “camera” and “privacy.”

Take Cybersecurity Seriously

The following are other cybersecurity steps to take as listed in the warning:

  • Don’t depend on the default security settings. Change passwords if you can – and know how to turn off the microphones, cameras, and collection of personal information if possible. If you can’t turn them off, consider whether you are willing to take the risk of buying that model or using that service.
  • If you can’t turn off a camera but want to, a simple piece of black tape over the camera eye is a back-to-basics option.
  • Check the manufacturer’s ability to update your device with security patches. Can they do this? Have they done it in the past?
  • Check the privacy policy for the TV manufacturer and the streaming services you use. Confirm what data they collect, how they store that data, and what they do with it.

If you have been victimized by cyber fraud, the incident can be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov or call a local FBI office.