Everyone knows personal privacy from Big Brother is non-existent. However, it may – or may not – surprise you that the latest threat to your privacy may come from your own living room. Discoveries made after the release of Samsung’s new Smart TVs revealed that the integrated webcams and microphones can actually be hacked and used to observe what is taking place in your home. The question is: who can gain access to this information?
It’s got some tantalizing features…
Samsung’s Smart TV is billed to be the ultimate interactive experience, complete with all of your favorite TV shows, games, social sites, and other programs just a hand gesture or voice command away. Face recognition software automatically signs you into your personal accounts, not only allowing access to your favorite shows but also creating amazing, full-screen access to your favorite social apps, all using simple gesture or spoken commands (Source).
But is it smarter than you think?
While few argue with the ease of using the Samsung Smart TV, some wonder about its security. Of course, Samsung is not the first company to produce a TV that offers an Internet connection or even a web camera, but it is one of the first companies to release a fully-integrated TV that maintains constant connectivity with its webcam and microphones. This, along with the ability to use third-party apps, has raised privacy concerns: can your TV be used to spy on you (Source)?
To put these concerns to the test, a security firm from Malta, ReVuln, attempted to hack into a Samsung Smart TV. ReVuln then released a video demonstrating their results; their researchers were able to gain access to pretty much everything on the TV, from the relativity benign channel lists to more disconcerting items such as all settings, USB drives, any personal data on the TV (such as passwords to social sites, etc.), and remote control configurations. Basically, the researchers gained access to all information on the TV and discovered that they could even watch what was happening in front of the TV via the online webcams and microphones (Source). Is this taking “smart” too far?
Why is it so easy?
So, what is the difference between the TV and, say, your laptop or iPad? Couldn’t hackers get the same access there? The difference is a fundamental one – while the Smart TV acts much like a computer, it lacks the security of most other devices. The Samsung Smart TV has no antivirus software or firewall systems in place, leaving it vulnerable to the type of hacking described above.
What Can Be Done?
Concerned about your privacy in light of Samsung’s Smart TVs? Wondering if there is a solution? Well, the first one is obvious. Don’t purchase the TV. If, however, you already have one of these extra-smart televisions, there are still a couple of steps you can take to make sure no one is spying on you when you are in the comfort of your own home. According to statements released by Samsung after the security flaw was publicized, consumers can either disable the camera and microphones from the TV’s settings or simply turn the camera around so that it cannot capture images in the home (Source). What about access to personal information? The jury is still out on that one, but consumers need to be aware that their Smart TVs may be giving away information that they thought was private. Granted, the risk is small, but do you really want to take that chance?
When you sit down at your computer, you assume your internet connection is secure and hacker-proof. Your webcam sure isn’t spying on you! Whether you’re taking a shower, fixing breakfast, mopping the floor or driving to work, you expect a certain level of privacy. You do not expect to have video cameras spying on your every move at home. When your kids sit in front of the TV watching comics Saturday morning or are playing Xbox with their friends, do you expect that same privacy?