Do you own a smart TV? More than half of all television sales in the US last year were smart TVs, so chances are decent that you own one. If you do, be aware that it may be collecting far more data about you than you think.
Recall that last year, Samsung, (one of the top smart TV manufacturers) found itself in hot water when it was revealed that the TV could listen in on conversations, record them (for better voice recognition) and save them on a Samsung server.
Those issues still persist to varying degrees, but a recent Consumer Reports study underscores something most people in the tech business have known all along. Smart devices really aren’t all that smart, at least when it comes to security.
The Consumer Reports study concluded that most smart TVs and associated technologies like the Roku have only the most rudimentary of security features and can easily be hacked, giving the hackers total control of your TV. This includes the ability to turn it off, on, change the channel, and monitor your viewing habits. Given that, these TVs can also be voice-controlled. Once a hacker is in control of your set, he could monitor any conversations that take place near it without your knowledge.
In addition, the most recent smart TVs come with a feature called Content Recognition. For example, if you watch the latest episode of the Walking Dead (whether on AMC or Amazon Prime or some other streaming service), the next time you pull up a web page on your PC or smart phone, you’ll start seeing advertising related to the Walking Dead.
This, of course, gives any would-be hacker a much deeper view into your viewing habits and history.
The upside is that most of these features can be deactivated if you have the patience to sift through the television’s menu system. Of course, if you do that, then it’s no longer a smart TV, and thus, not worth the extra money you spent on it.
As ever, the bottom line is this: These kinds of risks aren’t going to go away on their own. Until and unless smart device makers start taking security more seriously, we’re going to keep hearing about potential or actual abuses.