PORTLAND, OR — In a pre-holiday message to consumers, an FBI field office has warned that smart TVs, or televisions equipped with Internet streaming and facial recognition capabilities, may be vulnerable to intrusion by cyber criminals intent on causing harm.
The office, based out of Portland, Oregon, cautioned consumers that malicious cyber actors can also take control of unsecured smart TVs and potentially cause serious trouble for owners.
“Next-gen smart TVs and devices run complex software, have Internet connections and often have integrated sensors like microphones,” said Matt Tait, cybersecurity expert and former analyst at GCHQ, the British signals intelligence service. “These features enable things like Internet streaming services and voice-commands, but can unfortunately be subverted by hackers if the device gets compromised.”
In addition to potentially serious issues, criminals can also cause minor disturbances, the warning stated.
“At the low end of the risk spectrum, they can change channels, play with the volume and show your kids inappropriate videos,” the FBI warning states. “In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you.”
The FBI recommends that smart TV owners educate themselves on their device’s security settings (available from a simple Google search), change default network passwords set by manufacturers and understand how to enable and disable microphones and cameras.
If your smart TV doesn’t allow the disabling of cameras, the bureau recommends placing black tape over the camera to shut out potential cyberstalkers or criminals.
Tait also said it is also important for consumers to routinely install software updates routinely.
“Generally, customers who keep their devices up to date won’t have too much to worry about,” he added. “But for people who are particularly worried, or who don’t want the new ‘smart’ features, there is a simple solution to keep hackers out: Unplug the device from your network.”