Today’s manufacturers are continuously coming up with devices with the ability to connect to the internet to offer consumers convenience and more options. But, did you know that what seems to be unthreatening like your smart TVs actually comes with some potential risks?

Smart TVs have now become a favorite and sought after entertainment device, thanks to their increased quality and decreased prices. Smart TVs serve as your all in one device for all popular streaming services on top of the usual functions of traditional television.

Before you decide to get one for your home entertainment system, there are a few important things you should know about smart TVs.

What are Smart TVs?

Televisions that you can connect to the internet are smart TVs. Users can browse the internet, stream different media services, run apps, shop online, access on-demand video services and online music channels. There are also smart TVs that feature virtual assistant services with voice-recognition such as Amazon’s Alexa that help search programs, switch channels, and modulate the volume.

Through the years, the popularity of smart TVs skyrocketed. Users can now navigate with ease between social media and streaming services on their television just as how they would on their smartphone, tablet, laptop, or computer. The inclusion of voice commands has made it easier and more convenient to use these devices.

Smart TVs are also perfect for gaming services. The sharpness of images and the quality of pictures is also better on smart TVs compared to regular TVs. There are also newer smart TV models with 4K UHD content that offer a higher quality of sound and picture.

Color photo of a man watching a Smart TV - used to illustrate the prevalence of smart TVs.
Smart TVs serve as your all in one device for all popular streaming services on top of the usual functions. | Photo credit: Pixabay
Security Concerns of Smart TVs

Smart TVs, in theory, are highly revolutionized devices that give users plenty of choices to enjoy browsing, streaming, and gaming. However, there are also several risks you have to consider before you decide to add one to your home’s living room.

For instance, there is the issue of privacy. A voice-enabled and internet-connected TV can track the things you are watching and searching for. With these data, they can then show ads according to your lifestyle.

Many smart TVs also have the option to turn off this tracking. However, it might not be a default setting. This is why it is important to check first the fine print before you turn on or off any of your smart TV features.

Just like other devices connected to the internet, the risk of hacking is also present in smart TVs. Webcams of smart TVs can be hacked and used for spying. Malware may also move from one device to another through the router.

1. A Matter of Hacking Smart TVs

It is no longer new to hear about webcam hacking. However, this has become more mainstream these days as it attracts worldwide attention. A contestant of Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf became the target of hackers and was blackmailed after they utilized remote administration software for taking pictures of her inside her bedroom using her own computer. The same problem may also find its way to your smart TV in your living area.

This threat is not only seen in unmentionables. Hackers can easily use your TV’s webcam to know if your home has some valuable items worth stealing or know when you will be away from home for a long period of time.

There are also cases when hackers can remotely adjust the volume, rapidly cycle through channels, open explicit or disturbing content, and access the built-in browser of the connected smart TV for downloading malicious code.

2. The Issue of Tracking

Even if your television doesn’t come with a webcam, it is a must that you understand that the particular company that provides the content to you may likely track your browsing history as well as the things you watch on your TV. This tracking is supposed to serve you with ads based on your interests. However, you have to consider if you find this practice comfortable.

3. Outdated Software

Makers of smart TV try their very best in updating all software but in the midst of rushing to launch new devices, security might not be on top of their list. As technology quickly changes, the smart TV that has only been with you for 3 years might look ancient pretty soon.

Here, the secure router becomes essential since this serves as the internet’s entry point to your house, with the router offering some form of protection at this point of entry.

Color photo of an Android Smart TV with popular streaming programs on-screen: used to illustrate the cyber threats regading Smart TVs.
Smart TVs deserve and need the same level of awareness and care as your smartphone or laptop. | Photo credit: Pixabay
Tips to Maintain Privacy and Security of Smart TVs

It is important to remember that smart TVs are not bad per se and there are no signs that they will go away any time soon. However, you have to keep in mind that smart TVs are fundamentally specialized forms of connected computers so they deserve and need the same level of awareness and care as your smartphone or laptop. Here are a few tips to practice between behaviors for security and keep your smart TV safe and protected:

  • Turn off your WiFi

While the functionality of your smart TV might be limited when disconnecting it from the internet and it will just be a plain old TV, it will also the leakage of data from your living area. There are some risks if you connect this to a different streaming dongle or box but at least, these devices will offer you better control or at least they can act as they are expected to.

  • Check privacy settings

With the exhilaration and excitement of setting up your TV, you might be tempted to just stick with the default settings and agree with the data collection and privacy policies. How to look for these settings and change them will depend on your TV.

You might want to call customer support or read the manual. Reset your TV to its factory settings. During the setup process, just say yes to those basic terms of service and privacy policies but never agree to the collection of your viewing data.

Other tips include updating firmware or software, covering the camera if not in use, and minding the microphone.

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Smart TVs and Tips for Privacy & Security

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