With the holiday season upon us, people are thinking about gifts. Both those they plan to give and the ones they’d like to receive. Smart TV’s are on a whole lot of lists. While no one wants to be alarmist, there’s something to be said for making your holiday wishes wisely and doing your homework before you give or plug in any new technology. We love reading all about the intriguing and useful new tech that comes out every year, not just around the holidays. So when the FBI issues a warning about something, it makes us sit up and pay attention. Did you know that your new smart TV could be used to spy on you?
Before You Panic: Don’t!
Wait a moment before you go into full-blown freak out mode. In fact, please don’t do that at all. Not only will it not help, but things aren’t all grim news. We’re not living in the dystopian world of George Orwell’s novel “1984.” At least not yet, so don’t start making those fancy tinfoil hats. The holidays have enough stress.
Yes, a smart TV can access the internet. They also have some outstanding features like built-in cameras and microphones. They aren’t designed for sinister spy purposes, but rather to bring convenience and interactive programming to you with the aid of technology. Unfortunately, any device, like your smartphone, or even an internet-connected nanny cam, can become an access point for unscrupulous hackers. Hackers with drones aren’t the only ones who can get into your system.
You are probably already carrying the same level of risk in your pocket every day to make phone calls. Plus, a smartphone stores your contacts and personal information like a home computer. Instead of stressing out over whether you’re turning on cameras and listening devices, get savvy about smart technology, and take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Before You Buy
If you’re searching for a new Smart TV, either for yourself or anyone else, the internet and wifi may be part of the problem, but they’re also the solution. You can do a basic search for privacy features and find out how to turn off microphones and cameras on many models. For those that don’t offer the option, you’ll have to decide whether the risk is worth it for you.
Thanks to a post on cybersecurity and smart TVs from the FBI, we can suggest a few ways to help keep your home and family safe. You can use these tips even if you already have a smart TV that you’ve been using for a while. It’s never too late for a security upgrade.
1. Know Your Features
Read manuals and check online to see which capabilities your model of smart TV possesses. You can’t do anything about features if you don’t even know they exist.
2. Tell a Friend or Family Member
If you know other smart TV users, let them know that they should be learning this stuff too. Share this article. Especially if you plan to gift a smart TV this season, consider sending it along with a link here, or a quick list of the unsecured features and what your friend or family member can do about it.
3. Policy Check
Does your TV automatically update? You may have the power and ability to turn that off. Alternately, you may want to know about any security updates, so you can get them installed if they’re not automatic.
When in doubt, cover camera sensors with some black tape. At least your worst-case scenario won’t include cyber stalkers filming private videos of what you and your family do in front of the TV.
6. Never Assume Someone Else Took Care of It
If your TV has passwords and security features, you should always change them. Just as you should password protect your home computers and even your wifi network, your smart TV should be password locked if it has the capability.
7. Know When to Ask for Help
Hopefully, you’ll never get hacked, and you won’t have to worry about cyber insecurity or identity theft. However, if you do, make sure you report it right away. You can call your local FBI office or report it online.
Before You Use a New Smart TV
Make sure you go through the checklist before you start using a new smart TV. A hacker can take over your screen and do simple things like changing the channel and volume reasonably quickly. It doesn’t take very long to screw up settings or show a child some adult channels. While that’s not great, there are worse ways to abuse a TV that has cameras and microphones. Tech-savvy criminals can use your smart TV to record private conversations or video.
Even if you think you never do anything in front of your TV that could be a problem, you might be surprised. Plenty of people who aren’t up to anything still sit in front of their TV and access computers. Inputting passwords, credit card numbers, and codes could be a severe problem if you get hacked. Beyond a hacker simply using your services, they can steal your identity and credit card info if you forget or don’t notice the hack.
It’s better to be safe. Even people who have insurance and life-lock or other identity theft protection can become victims of crime. While you can have your accounts restored and change your passwords, it won’t stop you from suffering all the hassles. A wiped out bank account could make for a very sad Christmas, or even prevent you from paying rent on time while you wait for your services and identity to be restored.
There’s nothing wrong with getting or using a smart TV. The problems come in when consumers refuse or forget to educate themselves on the technology in their lives. Many people skip right past, reading the manuals and agreements. It’s never a good plan to do that. Take the time to protect yourself so you won’t have to worry about a hacked smart TV this holiday season, or ever.