The television sitting in the corner of your living room could be spying on you.
People who bought a smart TV on Black Friday have been urged to cover its camera with sticky tape because it could allow spooks, hackers or corporations to carry out secret surveillance in people’s homes.
These devices connect to the internet and let you use apps or streaming services.
But they also contain spooky surveillance devices including cameras and microphones.
The FBI is so concerned about the privacy risks of smart tellies that it used an urgent notice calling on people to be very careful about their new gadgets.
It wrote: ‘Smart TVs are called that because they connect to the Internet. They allow you to use popular streaming services and apps. Many also have microphones for those of us who are too lazy to actually to pick up the remote. Just shout at your set that you want to change the channel or turn up the volume and you are good to go.
‘A number of the newer TV’s also have built-in cameras. In some cases, the cameras are used for facial recognition so the TV knows who is watching and can suggest programming appropriately. There are also devices coming to market that allow you to video chat with grandma in 42” glory.
‘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.
‘Hackers can also take control of your unsecured TV. At the low end of the risk spectrum, they can change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos. In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you.’
Here are the FBI’s tips for making sure you smart TV doesn’t spy on you.
- ‘Know exactly what features your TV has and how to control those features. Do a basic Internet search with your model number and the words “microphone,” “camera,” and “privacy.”
- ‘Don’t depend on the default security settings. Change passwords if you can – and know how to turn off the microphones, cameras, and collection of 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.
- ‘If you can’t turn off a camera but want to, a simple piece of black tape over the camera eye is a back-to-basics option.
Check the manufacturer’s ability to update your device with security patches. Can they do this? Have they done it in the past?