If you have recently purchased a smart TV, which has a built-in Hulu, YouTube, Netflix and other Web connections, you might want to consider being very careful. Your TV smart TV might be vulnerable to hackers who could be tracking your viewing more than you actually realise.
According to an analysis made by Consumer Reports, five big U.S. TV brands—Vizio, Sony, LG, TCL and Samsung—can track and monitor the content that their consumers watch. Not just that, two of the mentioned brands could not even pass a basic security test.
According to the report, the security is very poor, and the hackers were in the position to completely take over the remote control of the TVs from TCL’s branded Roku TV and Samsung. By taking control, hackers could install new apps, change channels, play offensive stuff from YouTube, and increase and decrease volume.
According to Glenn Derene, Consumer Reports’ senior director of content, as the basic security protocol was clearly not being followed; it was very disturbing to note how simple and easy was it for the hackers to break in. The non-profit, which owns a website and publishes a magazine, collaborated with a firm named Dissconnect to carry out the hack tests.
Both the companies, Samsung as well as Roku, assured that they would look closely into the matter and get back as soon as possible. However, according to Gary Ellison, a Roku vice president, the analysis by Consumer Reports has got it all wrong. She insisted that Roku is very particular and serious about the privacy of its users and the security of its platform.
The Consumer Reports test broke into the Roku/TCL TV by using a feature created by ROKU itself that enables remote control access of the Roku software. This could let the consumer use his iPhone as a remote control. The problem could arise when the phone owner, whose TV is connected to the same Wi-Fi network, accidently clicks on a malignant link that allows a hacker to break into the network and then hack the TV interface as well.
However, Roku defended by saying that the feature could always be disabled. Also, in order to use the feature, one has to be on the same Wi-Fi system, which is usually protected by password to avert any sort of security and privacy breaches.
Smart TVs have been a commercial hit as they are usually “smart,” and consumers go for them as they save them the time and efforts required to change their settings every time they want to stream content online.
Smart TVs have a feature called Automatic Content Recognition, which, similar to what Nielsen does to measure viewership, monitors whatever you watch. According to Consumer Reports, by turning off the feature that attempts to track what you are watching, this issue can be easily fixed. Also, you can turn off the Wi-Fi as well.
Apart from the risk of hacking, the report found out that the smart TVs it tested asked they could collect viewing and other data, but the TVs did not clearly specify the extent to which information was being shared. Even though, consumers let internet-streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix track everything that they watch on their service, but consumers just do not expect their TV to be tracked. According to the Federal Trade Commission, smart TV companies should seek people’s consent before they gather and share television viewing data.