December 3, 2019
Who’s really watching who here?
The FBI has stated the obvious in an attempt to appear to be working in favor of the American people.
In a pre-holiday message to consumers, an FBI field office is warning that “smart TVs” — televisions equipped with internet streaming and facial recognition capabilities — may be vulnerable to intrusion.
“Next-gen smart TVs and devices run complex software, have Internet connections, and often have integrated sensors like microphones,” says Matt Tait, cybersecurity expert and former analyst at GCHQ, the British signals intelligence service. “These features enable things like internet streaming services and voice-commands, but can unfortunately be subverted by hackers if the device gets compromised.”
“At the low end of the risk spectrum, they can change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos,” the FBI warning states. “In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you.”
In order to guard against possible intrusion, the FBI recommends that smart TV owners educate themselves on their device’s security settings (available from a simple Google search), change default network passwords set by manufactures, and understand how to enable and disable microphones and cameras.
If a particular smart TV does not allow the disabling of cameras, the bureau says placing black tape over the camera is one basic and simple solution to shutting out prying eyes.
Tait warns it is also extremely important for consumers to promptly install software updates routinely pushed out by smart TV manufacturers.
“Generally, customers who keep their devices up to date won’t have too much to worry about,” Tait says. “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.”
That’s a bit like saying that not using the device is a solution to keep hackers out.
It’s not just TVs that they should have warned about though; any device with similar capabilities is also vulnerable.
- Computers in general
- “Smart” home appliances
- AI assistant things like Amazon’s Alexa
- Pretty much anything with an internet connection
In fact, we know that smartphones are being used to spy on people in order to sell them stuff.
Sometimes it’s something people say out loud close to their phone, sometimes it’s something they searched for on the internet using their phone, and sometimes it’s even based on their phone’s location, but what people do with their phones and around their phones is definitely influencing the ads that they’re seeing.
If you’re doing sensible stuff, assume that these devices are being used maliciously.
Assume you are being watched.
…because you are.