Smart TVs often come equipped with microphones or cameras that enable you to control the device via your voice or use it for video chatting.
Those features can be useful, but if you picked up a smart TV during the year-end buying blitz that kicked off on Black Friday — or plan to purchase one soon — the FBI wants you to know that the device could be used to spy on you or the loved one you plan to gift it to this Christmas.
On Tuesday, the FBI’s Portland field office published a blog post detailing all the ways someone could take advantage of a smart TV’s features for nefarious purposes.
“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,” the agency wrote. “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.”
This isn’t the first time someone has sounded the alarm over smart TVs’ security vulnerabilities.
A 2018 Consumer Reports investigation found that millions of smart TVs have easy-to-exploit security flaws, and white hat hackers have demonstrated how bad actors could take over the devices.
In June, electronics manufacturer Samsung even tweeted a reminder to owners of its smart TV to scan their sets for viruses every few weeks in order to “prevent malicious software attacks” — and then deleted the tweet after media coverage sparked backlash.
Smart TVs are clearly a viable point of entry for hackers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have your smart TV and enjoy your privacy, too, according to the FBI’s post.
The agency suggests doing your research before buying a smart TV to ensure you understand any security vulnerabilities. If you do buy a TV, make sure to change any default passwords and figure out how you can turn off its cameras or microphones.
And if all else fails, the FBI suggests going back to basics and placing a piece of black tape over a smart TVs’ camera. It might look a bit hokey, but it’s better than giving a hacker a window right into your home.