Hackers Can Jack Your Smart TV to ‘Silently Cyberstalk You,’ FBI Says

The FBI warns that smart TVs equipped with Internet streaming and facial recognition capabilities may be vulnerable to intrusion.

PORTLAND, Ore. — If it’s connected to the Internet you can bet hackers are targeting it as a portal into your home or business. And that goes for smart TVs, according to the FBI.

In a blog post timed for the holiday shopping season, the FBI’s Portland field office warns that smart TVs equipped with Internet streaming and facial recognition capabilities may be vulnerable to intrusion.

The latest TVs are oftentimes equipped with built-in microphones and cameras, which allow users to communicate instructions to the TV or by using facial recognition. With these new feature sets, therein lies the danger for consumers and opportunity for hackers.

“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,” the blog post reads.

At minimum, hackers can take control of the TV and change channels, adjust the volume or even play inappropriate videos. “In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you,” the FBI warning states.

To prevent a malicious intrusion, the FBI recommends that smart TV owners educate themselves on the device’s security settings, which can be found with a basic Internet search using the model number and the words “microphone,” “camera” and “privacy.”

Following are other cybersecurity steps to take as listed in the warning:

  • 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?
  • 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.

If you have been victimized by a cyber fraud, the incident can be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov or call a local FBI office.

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About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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