FBI Issues Warning On Spying Smart TVs

The Portland field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning consumers that the Smart TV in their living room could be spying on them. Smart TVs connect to the internet to eliminate the need for a streaming accessory to connect to internet programming from companies like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. The FBI wants consumers to think seriously about the security of these Internet-connect Smart TVs.

The Oregon FBI branch put out a statement outlining how new advanced technological features let television manufacturers and app developers to snoop on consumers. The sets can monitor your viewing habits and report back to the companies what you watch, when you watch and how long you watch in a session. This data can then be sold to third parties, unless you opt-out, which is rarely the default option.

The statement from the FBI field office also warns of the risk of hackers accessing the Smart TVs. It wrote: “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.” It continued: “In a worst-case scenario, (hackers) can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you.”

There have been numerous stories in the news recently of hackers accessing cameras to spy on people and using the microphones embedded in these devices to listen in or even speak to those they are spying on. The FBI statement says that hackers also “can change channels, play with the volume and show your kids inappropriate videos.” The FBI urges consumers to work out how to control features of their Smart TV, such as microphones and cameras, and warns that users should not rely on the device’s default security settings to protect them from intrusions.

The bureau also recommends changing the default network passwords set by manufacturers to protect both the Smart TV and your internet router. The FBI said, “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.” A secure and unique password should be chosen for the home router and this password should be changed on a regular basis.