If you know anything about hacking, you probably understand that the internet is usually a hacker’s key to your device and personal information.
So, you’ve installed a VPN on your smart TV and are careful about which links you click on and which Wi-Fi networks you connect to.
But, is there a way for hackers to gain access to your smart TV even when it’s not connected to the internet? If so, how?
Can a smart TV be hacked without the internet/Wi-Fi? What do hackers want from your device? Is there a way for them to spy on you from your smart TV?
Keep reading to find out!
Can a Smart TV Be Hacked Without the Internet/Wi-Fi?
A smart TV can be hacked with the internet/Wi-Fi.
Unfortunately, smart TVs can be hacked even when they’re not connected to the internet.
Let’s explore the different ways that hackers can find their way into your smart TV, even if it’s never been connected to the internet.
Connecting devices to your smart TV that are connected to the internet, and have possibly been hacked, could give hackers access to your TV.
In this case, the HDMI cable acts as a bridge between the compromised device (e.g. computer, phone, tablet) and the smart TV.
The hacker could use this pathway to control your TV, including turning it on and off, reading and changing your password, displaying images on-screen, and many more frightening things.
So, if your computer has been lagging, showing pop-up ads, or displaying any other suspicious behavior, make sure it’s not been hacked before plugging it into your smart TV.
Another way that your smart TV could be hacked without connecting it to the internet is through a USB stick (i.e. flash drive).
USB sticks often carry viruses, which give the hackers the ability to control your smart TV.
You could download a virus onto your USB drive, thinking it’s your TV’s firmware update, a free video game, or a movie.
Now, your USB stick is infected and will pass the virus onto your smart TV once it’s plugged into it.
Additionally, USB sticks can carry a virus from your computer to your TV by simply being connected to it. The virus will automatically spread from your computer to the USB stick, infecting every device it comes into contact with.
So, if you’re clearing viruses from your computer or smart TV, don’t forget to clean your USB, too.
Low-Power Electronic Signals
The last way a smart TV can be hacked is via the low-power electronic signals it emits, even if it’s not connected to the internet.
Your TV’s internal hardware, like its voltage regulator, sends out electronic signals, which hackers can use to download your passwords and other private information.
For instance, a hacker could read whatever you’re typing into your smart TV (i.e. passwords, messages, etc.) by connecting to the electronic signals via side channels.
Currently, this hacking method isn’t as widespread as the first two, but tech researchers hypothesize that it’s steadily on the rise.
What Do Hackers Want?
Hackers have a few different goals in mind when they hack your device.
Hackers take control of your device with specific intentions in mind.
Let’s go over what hackers are looking to do when they hack your smart TV.
To Scare You
You’ve probably heard of people having random, and perhaps, disturbing images pop up on their TV. Maybe you’ve even seen this happen to a local news agency when hackers take control of the live TV feed.
More often than not, hackers are not trying to deliver a specific message to viewers. Instead, their main goal is to scare people and make them feel unsafe now that they know their TV has been hacked.
The senior population is particularly susceptible to falling for these attacks, since they may not understand that the video on-screen is not from the news agency, but instead, from a hacker looking to catch people’s attention.
To Steal Your Information
Other times, hackers may be looking to steal your information.
Your passwords, social security number, and credit card numbers are valuable pieces of information that can be used to commit identity theft, credit card fraud, or other malicious crimes.
Alternatively, hackers may sell this information to other cybercriminals who will use it for the same purpose.
To Take Videos/Pictures
Finally, and most regrettably, some hackers want to take exploitative videos/photos.
These videos/photos could be of relaxing in your home, walking around in the nude, or of children.
The hackers could then do one of two things: blackmail you by threatening to release the photos online unless you pay them, or sell them to other curious buyers online.
Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, women are disproportionately targeted by these attacks.
Can a Hacker Spy on Me Through My Smart TV?
Yes, hackers can spy on you through your smart TV.
The FBI released an official statement warning people about the risk of surveillance for smart TV owners.
Many smart TVs have built-in cameras and microphones that owners are unaware of.
Hackers could gain control of the camera and microphone without your knowledge and collect videos and audio of you. This is especially risky if you have a smart TV in private areas of your home, like your bedroom.
It’s not just hackers who could be listening to you. Cases have been found of companies, like Samsung, listening to smart TV owners via a third-party company.
The FBI suggests that smart TV owners check if their unit has a built-in microphone or webcam by looking for a small lens on their TV. Microphones can also be located on the TV remote, marked by a small pinhole.
Alternatively, you can look up your model number online to see what built-in features it has.
If your smart TV does have a camera, turn it off in the settings and use a piece of black tap to cover it.
We also suggest turning off your TV’s microphone and blocking the voice command settings.
Wrapping Things Up
There’s no doubt about it, being hacked, blackmailed, and exploited is scary.
Remember that all the devices in your home need to be protected by a VPN and/or firewall and be regularly scanned for any viruses.
If you ever hear weird noises emitting from your smart TV, find your passwords have been randomly changed, or experience any other strange occurrences, turn off and unplug your TV until you can scan it for viruses.
In some cases, it may be a good idea to bring it to a technician who’s experienced in cybersecurity.
Your TV can be hacked by others physically accessing your TV. So, always be careful when allowing others to access your TV and be mindful of which cables or USB sticks they use on your devices.
Your privacy is important, so educate yourself on how to protect your digital safety.
Have you ever had a device hacked? Has this article educated you on how your smart TV can be hacked without an internet/Wi-Fi connection?
Let us know in the comments below!
Yesenia Achlim is a technical copywriter and editor with a focus on AV equipment. She aims to break down complicated topics and make technology accessible, no matter your technical expertise. When she’s not teaching you how to replace a projector lamp, you can find her reading and baking.