As 116 million Black Friday shoppers enjoyed the benefits of the ever-faithful Trump economy on Friday, the FBI issued a warning to consumers that made them look at their “deal” in a different light.
So what’s the problem? What are Americans buying that is causing such a concern?
According to the Portland FBI, the concern is coming from your Smart TV:
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.
But the problem goes much deeper than just cyber-stalking.
According to ABC News, criminal activity against you could include using your browsing/viewing history against you, accessing your photos/data/personal information, and even stealing account numbers/passwords.
And it gets even worse:
Candid Wueest, a threat researcher with digital security firm Symantec, was able to successfully infect his new Android-based smart TV with ransomware – software that locks a computing device until a user pays extortion to the hacker. He said it was easy to do. As he wrote on Symantec’s blog, the malicious software “locked the TV after a few seconds, displayed the dreaded ransom note on the screen, and made the TV unusable.”
Why would cybercriminals want to shut down a TV?
“Attackers just want to make money, so they are after the profits,” Wueest told NBC News in an interview from Switzerland. “Imagine this happening during the Super Bowl. A lot of people would probably pay to get their TV working again, so there’s the potential for a lot of money involved here.”
So what can be done?
According to the warning from the FBI, everyone with a Smart TV should follow some safety guidelines:
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?
If you feel like you or your loved ones have been cyber-attacked, make sure you contact your local FBI.
Have you or anyone you know been attacked?
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