A smart TV might not be the smartest buy this gift-giving season.
In a pre-holiday advisory to consumers, the FBI warned that the high-tech, internet-connected devices — especially those with built-in cameras, facial recognition capabilities and microphones — make their unsuspecting owners an easy target for hackers and cyberspies.
“At the low end of the risk spectrum, they [hackers] can change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos,” the government agency warned. “In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you.”
But if a smart TV is still on your wish list, the FBI recommends taking some precautions to protect your home from nefarious forces.
It urges smart TV owners to educate themselves with their particular model’s security features and to learn how to carefully control them. This can be achieved with a quick Google search of the model number with the keywords “microphone,” “camera” and “privacy.”
Disabling the camera and microphone when not in use could guard against possible cyber intruders — but if turning off the camera is not an option, the bureau suggests placing a black strip of tape over the camera.
Owners are also encouraged to customize passwords, install software security updates and learn how manufacturers collect and store data.
“Generally, customers who keep their devices up to date won’t have too much to worry about,” Matt Tait, cyber-security expert and former analyst at GCHQ, the British signals intelligence service told CNN.
“But for people who are particularly worried, or who don’t want the new ‘smart’ features, there is a simple solution to keep hackers out: unplug the device from your network.”