Smart TV security is a common discussion with Internet security experts, especially with how many consumers have transitioned to this technology over the past years.
As smart TVs have opened a new gateway to the Internet, it has exposed consumers to more security risks, including hacking.
While hacking is a very rare phenomenon – no one is hacking a Smart TV just for the fun of it – there are ways that your TV could potentially be hacked.
In this article, we’ve outlined a few things to consider:
How Secure are Smart TVs Toward Hacking?
For as long as you connect your smart TV to the Internet, your TV will be vulnerable to hacking or other infiltrations to privacy.
Connecting to the Internet is much like going out of your house while leaving your gate open.
While there are methods to block unauthorized entries such as firewalls, these are not hacker-proof. Hackers will find a way to get through when the opportunity arises.
So if you want to be secure, don’t leave your Smart TV connected when not using functions that need Internet connectivity.
How Often Do Smart TVs Get Hacked?
Smart TVs are one of the most hacked devices that can connect to the Internet.
You may think your smart TV may not be susceptible to hackers, as compared to your computer. Truth be told, your smart TV still contains data that can be used to access your payment credentials.
A monthly subscription to apps like Netflix needs you to save your bank details so that it can automatically renew your subscription.
If a hacker can get your Netflix email and password through your smart TV, chances are he can get a hold of your payment information.
What Can Hackers get Access to Via My Smart TV?
Hackers can get through a lot of things on your smart TV!
If hackers can access your smart TV, they will be able to gain access to information such as your most viewed videos or TV programs.
Hackers will be able to access your emails and passwords you used to subscribe to services such as Apple, Netflix, and other streaming services.
If you log into your social media accounts there, they can access that too.
Should your smart TV have a camera and microphone for video chats, hackers will be able to open that as well.
There are also incidents when hackers can play with the volume of your smart TV or even change the video you are watching without you knowing it.
Can Hackers Watch You Through Your TV?
This is an incredibly rare, worst-case scenario when discussing hackers getting access to your smart TV.
However, there are ways that this can occur, and you should be educated about the microphone and cameras on your TV.
A lot of modern Smart TVs have built-in cameras located on top of your TV, along the center part. Not too far away is a pinhole for your microphone.
Check out our article, Where Are The Cameras & Mics Of Smart TVs Hidden? (Busted!) – for more information on this topic.
These cameras and microphones are used for video chat applications like Skype or Zoom, when compatible.
Usually, the cameras and microphones should remain off when not in use, but when hackers can access these devices, they theoretically should be able to see you.
Again, this is an incredibly difficult thing to do and a rare event, so don’t stress too much over it.
Can Smart TVs Get Viruses?
Since smart TVs are computers and can install applications, they are not immune to viruses or other malicious content that can harm your TV.
Having a full-fledged operating system and Internet connectivity makes them vulnerable like your computer.
While viruses are dependent on operating systems to work, chances are there is a virus that can affect your smart TV system.
This is why you need to be cautious when installing apps on your smart TV, especially when not certified by your manufacturer as safe.
Can Anyone Access My Smart TV Remotely?
As it is, app developers are already accessing your smart TV remotely.
They get to see what are your favorite programs, what do you plan to watch later, and even see what you have been searching for.
Such information is a basis to push advertisements into your smart TVs through the apps you use.
Someone Connected to My Smart TV, What Do I Do?
Should you detect unusual activity from your smart TV, the first thing you should do is log out of all your accounts.
After logging out, access those accounts from another device and change passwords.
You should enable two-factor authentication when possible.
Once you have secured your account, go over the recent activities or logins of your account and look for the suspicious activity so you can block it.
Do I Need Antivirus Protection for my Smart TV?
While it is possible that your smart TV can “catch a virus,” installing antivirus may not be helpful in the long run.
Chances are, your smart TV runs on a closed network system, which sets high standards before you can install third-party applications. This means, if you want to install something not found in the default app store, you need to go through a lot of settings to make it work.
Smart TVs that are usually prone to virus attacks are often those that are outdated.
But rarely will you see a virus developer create a virus that would attack older smart TVs. They would often pick on newer models, since older smart TVs may be on their way to disposal.
Should you encounter a virus on your smart TV, it is recommended that you disconnect it and switch to streaming devices, which have long-term security support, such as Roku.
Are Digital Media Boxes like Roku Stick or Apple TV Safer Than Smart TVs?
These are not necessarily safer than a Smart Tv.
Devices such as the Apple TV or Roku Stick are still smart devices, just without the TV screen.
They connect to the Internet to work and need you to sign in to use, meaning that they can be accessed by an outside source and have your information within them.
Nine Tips to Protect Your Smart TV From Hackers:
It is incredibly rare that your Smart TV would be hacked by an outside source.
That being said, while the best way to protect your smart TV from hackers is not to connect to the Internet, this defeats the purpose of buying a smart TV.
But, there are some things you can do to protect your smart TV from hackers!
Note that these are not 100% guaranteed walls of protection, but with the right practices, you can significantly reduce the amount of exposure of your smart TV when connected to the Internet:
1. Cover Your Camera and Microphone:
This is the easiest thing you can do to protect your smart TV from hackers. It requires no knowledge of using apps and won’t cost much.
Just get a piece of tape and cover the camera lens of your smart TV. Do the same with the microphone pinhole.
If your smart TV uses a detachable webcam, keep it disconnected when not in use.
2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication on All Accounts Logged into your Smart TV:
This will alert you if anyone tries to access your accounts remotely through unauthorized devices.
Should anyone attempt to log into your account, a text message will be sent to the phone number associated with your account with a code to verify this log in.
In the event this happens, immediately secure your accounts and change your passwords.
Look into your recent activities also to identify the unauthorized login. Once you find it, block it if possible.
Also, never give out that code sent to your phone via two-factor authentication to anyone.
3. Log Out of Your Accounts When Possible:
Keeping your accounts logged in only increases your vulnerability. This is why you need to reduce all possible entry points of hackers while your smart TV is connected.
If you can, you should log out of your accounts after using them with your smart TV, especially for social media and communication apps like Facebook and Skype.
By logging out of your accounts immediately after use, you reduce the risks of hackers accessing your smart TV, including the built-in hardware like the camera or microphone.
Also, if someone in your household uses your smart TV and accidentally opens malicious content, your accounts may be compromised if left logged into the smart TV.
While logging out may not be a practical option, as some apps need you to be logged in to work, consider going over the apps that can be logged out.
Apps like YouTube can be used without logging into your account on a smart TV. So there’s no need to log in if you want to watch a video.
The goal for this trip is to reduce the number of entry points that hackers can use to access your data and smart TV.
4. Use Incognito Searches or Apps that Don’t Need Login to Use:
The idea here is not to let hackers or your smart TV know what you frequently search.
Your search history is often the basis of what is pushed to your smart TV for advertisements. It also gives hackers an idea of your behavior, which is why you need to keep smart TV habits anonymous.
If you need to search for something in an app, try to stay logged out or switch to incognito or anonymous browsing.
This way, your search activity remains anonymous and detached from your Google account or Apple ID.
5. Use a Virtual Private Network:
Using a VPN allows you to mask your IP address, which in turn provides another layer of protection from hacking.
By masking your IP address, hackers would not be able to detect you, as your IP address will appear from somewhere else.
If you are from Arizona, a VPN can make it look like you are browsing from Nairobi in Africa, which will confuse hackers trying to access you.
They won’t know it’s you, so you can peacefully use the Internet with fewer risks.
Another good thing about using VPNs on your smart TV?
Since your IP address is made to look like you’re from another location, you can watch content not offered in your area.
6. Disable Cookies:
Disabling cookies, including third-party ones in your Smart TV browsers, will limit web-tracking activities.
While it will not stop tracking, it will enable an incognito-like browsing experience.
Do note that disabling cookies will also restrict your browsing on some websites.
7. Set Strong Passwords for the Accounts You use on your Smart TV:
This should be done for all accounts you use, whether on your computer, smartphone, or TV.
Don’t use obvious passwords related to your name, work, or family, as these are too obvious. Go for a mix of uppercase, lower case, and alphanumeric combinations.
Even if you restrict it to eight (8) characters or the usual smallest length for Internet passwords, it will still be hard to crack that, as there are over 218 trillion possible combinations to go through before a hacker can access your account.
Such diligence in password creation goes a long way in deterring hackers from accessing your account.
8. Restrict Accessing Accounts on Your smart TV:
Don’t be tempted to access your bank account or email from your smart TV.
Just because you can get a lot of work through your smart TV’s web browser, it does not mean you have to.
Opening these sensitive accounts will only make your security more vulnerable. You are better off doing your emails or online banking through your smartphone or computer.
9. Limit the Number of Devices You Connect to Your Smart TV:
You need to limit the links that hackers have to your devices.
If you mirror your device to your smart TV, consider limiting them and disconnecting those not in use.
You need to remove all possible links between devices so hackers won’t have devices that can link them to your sensitive data.
If you use a flash drive or hard drive on your smart TV, disconnect when not in use. This can serve as a possible host for suspicious content that may harm your devices.
What is the Most Secure Smart TV Brand on the Market?
Given the risks of smart TVs and how they track you, it would be good to consider Sony for a secure smart TV.
While it does track you like other brands, Sony allows you to disable tracking, which will only remove suggested content for you to watch.
Unlike other brands, which disable a lot of functions when you opt-out of tracking, Sony still gives you the whole nine yards of features even when you opt-out of tracking.