Who’s Watching Whom? FBI Warns Smart TV Owners of Product’s Hackability

CC0 / / Сhild is watching TV
Сhild is watching TV - Sputnik International
The Oregon FBI has issued a public advisory alerting US consumers about the backdoor hazards associated with new smart televisions that come equipped with unsecured cameras and microphones.

Customers who recently scored Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on state-of-the-art smart TVs may want to reconsider letting the tech into their home following a recent public notice from the FBI.

While it’s not uncommon for consumers to suspect there is a risk of someone - whether it be the product manufacturer, a government agency or a hacker - listening in on conversations through voice-activated devices and remotes, authorities are now warning families of the dangers and hackability of newer TVs with built-in cameras.

“At the low end of the risk spectrum, they can change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos,” the Oregon FBI’s “Tech Tuesday” notice claimed. “In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV's camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you.”

The prospect of being hacked is enough for many to return or exchange their TVs, but there are options for those who wish to remain committed to their new TVs, yet also want to safeguard their households.

One simple step the FBI recommends consumers take to learn more about their TV is an online search including the unit’s model number and any combination of the words “microphone,” “camera” and “privacy.”

“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,” the notice advises. “If you can’t turn them off, consider whether you are willing to take the risk of buying that model or using that service.”

Clearly keeping all options on the table, the FBI also notes consumers can simply place a piece of black tape over the TV’s camera.

Additionally, users should, as always, inspect the privacy policy of the both the TV manufacturer and the streaming services or other apps utilized on the TV to be aware of what data is collected and stored and what rights they may be giving up through any contract agreements.

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