Smart TV owners, beware: the internet-connected appliances may be vulnerable to hackers and are possibly collecting too much information about you, according to an investigation by Consumer Reports.
The findings of Consumer Reports further highlights the security issues concerning smart TVs, following last year's $2.2 million settlement by Vizio for claims that its smart TVs spied on the viewing habits of customers.
Smart TVs Vulnerable To Hackers
According to Consumer Reports, millions of smart TVs are at risk of being compromised as they come with easy-to-find flaws that hackers can exploit. The issues affect smart TVs made by Samsung and TCL, along with brands that use Roku TV's smart TV platform. Even the Roku Ultra streaming devices were found to be vulnerable to hackers.
"We found that a relatively unsophisticated hacker could change channels, play offensive content, or crank up the volume, which might be deeply unsettling to someone who didn't understand what was happening," Consumer Reports wrote, adding that hacks into smart TVs can be carried out remotely.
The most disturbing thing about the investigation was "the relative simplicity" of being able to hack into the smart TVs, said Consumer Reports' senior director of content Glenn Derene. Samsung responded by saying that it will release an update to the API of its smart TVs soon as it can, while Roku refuted that its customers are facing security risks.
The findings of Consumer Reports, however, state that the security issues will not allow hackers to spy on users or steal their information. Unfortunately, that is another problem with smart TVs that was covered in the investigation.
Smart TVs Collecting Data
Consumer Reports said that for all the smart TVs that it evaluated, each and every one asked for permission to collect data on viewing habits. However, it is not easy to understand what exactly users are agreeing to as they go through the set-up process.
What is clear, however, is that customers will lose access to a significant number of functions if they decline permissions. If customers do not agree to even the most basic privacy policies, the smart TV reverts to being a non-smart TV, with viewing only available through an antenna or cable box and not through services that require an internet connection.
How To Protect Yourself From Smart TVs
Customers who would want to avoid the hacking vulnerability and data collection practices of smart TVs may try to buy a "dumb" TV with no streaming capabilities, but these models are becoming harder to find.
For those who already have smart TVs, the best way to ensure security and privacy would be to first reset the TV to factory settings, agree to the most basic privacy policies and terms of service, and deactivate automatic content recognition.