There have been a lot of smart upgrades to media devices. These upgrades aim to offer consumers the best user experiences.
While your smart TV was designed with good intentions, it can easily put you in some trouble. Smart features — as wonderful as they are — can leave you open to the risk of privacy invasion.
Like other smart devices, your smart TV can be used as a tool by hackers. You can be spied on through your smart TV, and your sensitive information may end up in the hands of fraudulent people.
This article addresses how hackers can use your smart TV to invade your privacy. We’ll also tell you what you can do to prevent this occurrence.
How Do Smart TVs Work?
Smart TVs can tap directly into the internet through a wired or wireless connection. This means that some smart TVs have Wi-Fi built-in, while others require a wired Ethernet connection.
These smart TVs allow you to stream multiple entertainment services like movies, TV shows, and music. They also include apps like Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, Hulu, Amazon prime, and HBO Max.
Some smart TVs even have search features for almost any topic from trending news to weather and stock prices.
Manufacturers like Samsung and Sony have taken the game further, introducing cameras and microphones for voice command and facial recognition. The voice command feature is conveniently located in the remote, so you can operate your TV from the comfort of your couch.
Manufacturers routinely roll out internal software and firmware updates. Some updates aim to fix bugs, while others carry new features.
These updates automatically download into the TV overnight or whenever you connect the TV to the internet. Some TV models may notify you first, while others may not.
For some smart TVs, you need to download and update the firmware manually using a USB stick.
Can a Smart TV Be Hacked?
Your smart TVs, like mobile phones, tablets, and other smart devices, can be hacked. Any device that has access to the internet can be hacked into and hijacked by malicious parties.
When a hacker gets into your smart TV’s network, they can steal your passwords, change the channel, and even lock you out of your TV if your TV has a lock feature.
There are certain programs and interfaces through which your smart TV interacts with other smart devices. Some examples of these are Google assistant, Apple TV, and AirPlay.
If your smart TV is hacked, the hacker(s) can access sensitive information on your other smart devices through these channels.
Can You Be Spied Upon Through Your Smart TV?
Yes, you can.
Smart TVs (especially recent Samsung models) have cutting-edge technology that allows you to access social media sites like Facebook. Hence, whatever you share on social media is also available to any intruding third party.
When you input your card details to make purchases or subscribe to streaming services like Netflix, this sensitive information becomes available to hackers.
Your smart TVs are equipped with software that tracks your on-screen activities and collects data from the channels you like to watch, the streaming services you use, your favorite TV shows, and even commercials.
The data collected enables your smart TV to measure viewership and give you trending and updated recommendations for programs you’re interested in.
This technology is called the ACR (Automatic Content Recognition) tech. While it exists for legitimate reasons, hackers can also use it to spy on you.
ACR also tracks the activities on other media devices connected to your smart TV. Then it sends this data to the manufacturer and other affiliated partners.
Remember that your smart TV can connect to and interact with other smart systems like phones, smart doorbells, Alexa, and an internal security system connected to your home network.
Hackers can tap into the built-in camera and microphones on your smart TV, allowing them to watch and listen in on you.
Thankfully, there are TV models that allow you to turn these features off when they aren’t in use.
How To Prevent Being Watched Through Your Smart TV?
A creeper could be watching you through your smart TV! What can you do about it?
Although the possible threat to privacy exists, smart TVs are still essential to modern entertainment. You can use your smart TV and maintain your privacy with little effort.
In this section, you’ll learn how to avoid getting spied on through your smart TV.
Don’t Enable Permissions
There are manufacturers’ basic privacy policies and permissions that you must accept before setting up your smart TV. Outside of these are other optional permissions, too. Luckily, you can use your device without enabling them.
When setting up your smart TV, the TV displays a series of prompts that contain different privacy options. You can skip permissions like the ACR and others responsible for data collection.
You will be restricted from automatic updates when these permissions are not enabled. Hence, you need to manually check for and install updates once in a while.
Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
VPNs create a virtual private network, protecting your online activities from external threats (i.e. hackers) when connected to a public network. It also masks your IP address and personal data on any network.
Many smart TVs are not equipped with a native VPN and will not be compatible with all VPNs you install. If this is the case, you can opt for the alternatives listed below.
- Get a router equipped with a VPN (like NordVPN) and connect your smart TV to it.
Disable Smart Settings
Smart TVs come with the option for you to turn off the smart settings. This option disables every feature that makes your TV smart and renders it dumb.
On Samsung TVs, you can deactivate the Autorun Smart Hub function from the general settings menu.
The process of switching off smart settings varies for different brands and models. Please check your manufacturer’s manual to learn how to disable smart settings on your smart TV.
Restrict Direct Internet Connections
Another way to protect your privacy and prevent your sensitive and personal data from getting into the hands of a third party is to avoid connecting it to the internet.
You’re probably thinking that this option defeats the purpose of having a smart TV.
It may be inconvenient, but you can access your favorite apps and streaming services via external devices (like streaming sticks and players) instead of streaming directly from your smart TV.
If you have a smart home, do not connect or synchronize your smart TV to your home’s central system. This precaution is especially helpful for homes whose smart security systems include CCTV cameras and smart doorbells.
The methods we’ve outlined go a long way to protect you from being spied on. Still, you can also pick up a few extra advantageous habits.
These habits are as simple as disabling the smart TV’s microphone when it’s not in use, covering up the TV’s camera with a piece of tape, and avoiding feeding your TV sensitive data like your social media passwords and card details.
You can tell when your TV’s microphone is listening through the microphone symbol on the screen or indicator light on the TV panel.
It is common knowledge that everything with advantages also has disadvantages. Smart media devices are the future, but they also pose some risks to users.
Your smart TV can be hacked into, used to spy on you, and used to collect sensitive information. However, this shouldn’t stop you from using a smart TV.
If you follow the precautions outlined in this article, you can avoid a breach of privacy and enjoy your smart TV. Cheers!
Gabriella ‘Diogo is a content writer with a vested interest in tech hardware and equipment. She shares her knowledge and processes in an easy-to-grasp, lighthearted style. When she’s not testing or researching device performance, you’ll find her writing short stories or rewatching episodes of her favorite sitcoms.