FBI Issued Warning About Smart TVs Ahead Of Black Friday & Cyber Monday Sales

A visitor looks at a display of Smart TV televisions at the Thomson stand.
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

With so many consumers purchasing smart TVs for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the FBI issued a warning about the security of these internet-connected televisions, Tech Crunch reported. For some households, these models are part of an overall smart home, but there are some prudent points to consider before choosing which television to buy.

Smart TVs work similarly to traditional televisions, but they also include an internet connection along with various apps for streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and others. While this connectivity allows for simple and easy streaming without the addition of any other technology like an Amazon Fire TV box or a Roku, it also opens households up to potential security issues because hackers can take advantage of the vulnerabilities inherent in smart TVs.

The FBI posted about the risks associated with this type of technology on its website last week. Not only can hackers use these vulnerabilities for nefarious reasons, these TVs also allow app developers and TV manufacturers to listen or watch households through some units’ built-in microphones and cameras.

“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. 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,” noted the FBI’s warning.

A visitor wears 3D glasses while watching a presentation of 3D Smart TV at the LG stand.
  Sean Gallup / Getty Images

While a few of the things hackers might do — like changing channels or adjusting the volume — seem somewhat harmless, it would still be a gross invasion of privacy to realize that somebody else had access to an individual television. However, in more extreme cases, a hacker could use the smart TV features to cyberstalk victims, turning on the microphone and camera in a household’s most private areas.

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The FBI’s warning encouraged consumers to take the time to know what features the smart TV has by doing simple internet searches for the model along with words like “privacy,” “microphone,” and “camera.” The Bureau also warned people not to rely on manufacturers’ built-in security and urged television owners to change the sets’ passwords whenever possible. The also recommended owners regularly check for security updates from the manufacturers.

The FBI wrote that consumers should also know how to shut off their smart TV’s microphones and cameras, urging consumers to reconsider buying models if they don’t allow for those features to be disabled when they’re not in use. In the abscence of the ability to turn off a smart TV’s camera, a piece of black tape can cover the lens, making it safer from hackers.

While these threats are worrisome, there are several great smart TV deals for Cyber Monday on Amazon. Just check the security and features of the TV before choosing which model to purchase.