Secure Your Smart Television

January 2019

Today, most of the televisions being sold are smart TVs. And they are spying machines. They record and transmit information on your viewing habits and can actively listen to your conversations or can even watch you. Here is what you can do to block this spying.

Today’s smart television is simply one more internet-connected computer, with the difference being that smart TVs provide almost no real security or privacy. You are not only at risk at being continually spied upon by your television manufacturer, but also by the entertainment companies that you give access to your television. Smart televisions are also easily hacked as well.

Basically, your television can be turned into a bugging device that will record your voice conversations and even, in some cases, video. In February 2018, Consumer Reports issued a report on the ability of hackers to exploit common flaws in the best-known television sets. But even apart from hackers, most people who own smart TV sets sign generally sign away their privacy as a condition for owning the television, as well as to get services from entertainment companies. Personal electronic assistants, like Amazon Alexa, which are also little more than spies, are increasingly built in to the smart TVs. Even more alarming, smart televisions are now also increasingly plugged into other connected devices in the home, which can then be accessed by hackers.

Virtually all televisions made today, including the cheapest models, now contain at least some “smart features.” Even for those older television sets, set-top boxes like Roku essentially provide a smart television in a box.

 

Recommendations

Smart television sets are so easily hacked that many experts recommend that you not buy one at all. And since smart television manufacturers have deliberately set things up to harvest as much information as they can from you, and since many experts believe that many TV manufacturers spy even without your permission, probably the best thing that you can do is to not own a smart television at all.

Of course, it is increasingly difficult to buy a television set that does not have “smart features.” And you might already own a smart TV. The thing to do in that case is to completely disconnect it from the Internet. The first step is to see if the TV will allow you to disconnect it from your home WiFi network. If the TV will not allow you to do this, and many will not, simply reset the television to its default factory setting. When it attempts to set itself up again, do not give it your WiFi password.

This is a fairly radical step and it means that you will not be able to access the many entertainment options that are available over the Internet. However, since all smart TVs are lacking in any real security, and your TV is simply a hacking incident waiting to happen, as well as vacuum cleaner sucking up all your information for major corporations, it is worth cutting it off from the Internet.

 

If you decide to keep it online

However, if you do decide to keep your smart TV online, it is recommended that you do not engage in any banking or in any shopping that requires the entry of a credit card number.  You should definitely never hook the smart TV up to other electronic systems in your house. You should also turn off any voice or video features that would allow hackers to spy on you. However, the problem is that hackers can turn them back on again.

A 2018 study by Consumer Reports undertook an analysis of major U.S. TV manufacturers that revealed how much your television spies on you. The study also showed that most smart television owners have, for the most part unwittingly, granted permission for this spying when setting up their new televisions.

For instructions on how to shut down the spying features of at least the major manufacturers, see this following Consumer Reports article:   https://www.consumerreports.org/privacy/how-to-turn-off-smart-tv-snooping-features/

Finally, one way to limit the ability of hackers to control your smart TV is to install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your home Internet router. For more information, see the VPN article  on this website.