What the FBI wants you to know about smart TV security before you buy on Cyber Monday

Internet capable devices with microphones and cameras could be prone to fraud.

December 2, 2019, 1:29 PM

Sure, a new smart TV sounds like the perfect piece of tech to add to your home -- especially if it's on sale for Cyber Monday -- but the FBI wants to remind consumers to make sure they are shopping safe.

If you purchased a smart TV on Black Friday or have one sitting in your shopping cart, there are a few important security questions to consider when looking at various models and its high-speed features.

PHOTO: In this Aug. 2, 2019, file photo, a smart tv with Netflix and SkyGo app. Youtubem, and SkyGo app is shown.
In this Aug. 2, 2019, file photo, a smart tv with Netflix and SkyGo app. Youtubem, and SkyGo app is shown.
Ian West/PA Wire via AP, FILE

The same internet connection that allows viewers to instantly open popular services and stream their favorite shows or movies could also leave you open to security threats, according to the FBI.

Here's what the FBI field office in Portland suggests when it comes to being smart about the technology in your home:

Know the exact features of your TV and how to control them: do a basic Internet search with your model number and the words "microphone," "camera" and "privacy."

Don’t default to manufacturer security settings: change the password if you can and know how to turn off any microphones, cameras and personal information if possible. If you can’t turn them off, consider whether you are willing to take the risk of buying that model or using that service.

Back-to-basics option: if you can’t turn off a camera, use a simple piece of black tape over the camera lens.

Check the manufacturer’s ability to update your device with security patches.

Check the privacy policy for the TV manufacturer and the streaming services you use: confirm what data they collect, how they store that data, and what they do with it.

"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," the FBI wrote in a press release. "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."

Additionally, basic function manipulation is still a consideration, albeit on the lower end of the risk spectrum, the FBI said.

"They can change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos," the FBI wrote. "In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV's camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you."

Reports of cyber fraud can be made through the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center here or victims can call their local FBI office.

Related Topics