What is a smart TV and what are the associated risks

Authored by a Symantec employee


More and more devices are being connected to the Internet by default, and although we welcome the change of having these options, few of us consider the possible risks. So-called “smart” televisions come with a host of privacy risks -- here’s what you should consider before making the switch.

The Hacker Problem

Webcam hacking is nothing new, but it has been getting more mainstream attention lately. Cassidy Wolf, a Miss Teen USA contestant, was targeted by hackers for blackmail after they used remote administration software to take photos of her in her bedroom, through her own computer; The problem could now be headed to your living room TV.

The threat isn’t just being seen in your unmentionables; a hacker could just as easily use the webcam on your television to find out whether you have anything worth stealing in your home or when you are most likely to be gone for long periods of time.

The Tracking Problem

Even if you don’t have a webcam on your television, you need to understand that the company providing you with content is tracking everything you do. Much of that tracking is ostensibly in the name of serving you with advertising more attuned to your interests, but consider whether you’re comfortable with that practice.

Washington’s Response

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has adopted the cause of making smart televisions secure as well as intelligent. He penned a letter to some of the major manufacturers of smart televisions, requesting that they pay more attention to making TVs safer for consumer use.

While iSEC Partners, an Internet security research firm, has helped point out some of the holes in commercially available smart TVs, it is worth noting the conundrum of all Internet security issues: Whatever the good guys do is largely a reaction to things that the bad guys have already done.

Your Response

The simplest way to make sure that your smart TV isn’t spying on you? Disconnect it from your home network. But if you want access to some of the perks of smart technology, avoid TVs with built-in webcams. If you already have a TV with a webcam, go for the low-tech but effective way of blocking it: a sticky note covering the lens except for when you’re actively using it.

But the bottom line with smart TVs, as with most technology in our society, is that you don’t ever know who’s trying to peer through your webcam or track your surfing and viewing habits. If that bothers you, lobby your representatives to push for better regulation and government transparency. Until we get that, behave accordingly.

Together we’ll help protect your digital life

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