We love our smart TVs don’t we? They make life awfully convenient, don’t they? But do they make life so convenient that we, as consumers, forget to actually consider the security risks of owning a smart TV or any IoT device for that matter? Take a good hard look at all your smart devices. How many do you own? Smart bulbs, smart TV, smart speakers and so the list goes on or is cut short according to your fondness for tech.
In order to not get in simple words “freaked out” or be spied upon we’ve compiled a list of tips for you to enjoy your WOW cable and internet while minimizing security risks:
Change the Administrative Settings
When you purchase a smart TV or really any smart device it usually has a default password set up. While many people are quick to change their Wi-Fi passwords most people don’t’ care much for doing the same for their household smart devices. However, this poses a major threat. Why? Companies upload user manuals in order for prospective buyers to check out how a smart device works. Unfortunately, this means hackers can simply Google the user manual for a smart device and then use the password to hack into it.
Bottom line: Change your password!
Do You Really Need a Microphone and a Webcam
Before you pick up that smart TV with all the latest features on a Black Friday Sale or a promotion of some sort be sure to figure out what features and functions you need your Smart TV for. Webcam hacking is nothing new and once a US beauty pageant contestant was blackmailed as hackers managed to use her PC’s webcam to gain private photos of her. This threat could extend to the smart TV as its webcam can possibly be used to spy on you in your lounge.
Consequently, you need to find out if you can turn off your smart TV’s microphone or webcam. This can be done by looking up the TV’s user manual online. If you’re unlucky though and aren’t able to change your settings you can go down the old-fashioned route of placing tape over your webcam and microphone. Heck even Mark Zuckerberg tapes his PC’s webcam so why shouldn’t you. Also putting black tape is an FBI-recommended and endorsed practice for people.
Updates! Updates and More Updates
The need to install updates can’t be stressed enough. Too often we are in the middle of using our devices to bother installing updates. Either we put off the update for tomorrow, ignore it or don’t even bother to check for it. In the case of your smart TV this laziness can cost you your safety and privacy. Firmware as well as app updates tend to fix bugs and reduce the known security flaws of a smart TV. Different smart TVs have different methods or processes for installing these vital updates so you might need to contact the manufacturer’s customer support or look up online the user manual. If possible try to turn on auto-update feature to make your life just a little more easier.
ACR (Automatic Content Recognition)
What is ACR? Well, it basically allows smart TVs to collect tons of data about you. Everything you watch and I really mean everything you watch is kept track of whether you’re using a streaming platform, cable TV or even a DVD. While companies claim that this collection of data is only for advertising purposes i.e. to target consumers with relevant ads, this data is usually sent to big companies like Amazon, Google, and Netflix etc. without your knowledge.
Hence, when you set up your new smart TV make sure to read each line carefully before you agree to any privacy terms.
Disconnect from the Internet
Even if you do manage to turn off your ACR feature in your smart TV, chances are your smart TV will still be collecting data about you such as your location, which applications you use and much more. There’s really only one way to guarantee complete security in this case and that is to disconnect from the internet.
All in All…
There are measures that you can take to improve your security, but as security standards currently stand there will likely be some tradeoff between your privacy and the convenience and fun of using a smart TV. So if you are looking for a fool-proof solution then you most likely will need to disconnect your TV from the internet altogether or use an older non-smart TV model.