Over the past several months, Americans have received alarming news that the United States government is collecting data on their phone calls and other electronic transmissions. Former NSA software developer Craig Heffner further warned that hackers can gain access to unsecured cameras – like that on your computer – and one study even showed that hackers can manipulate your vehicle while you are driving it.
With all the recent news, perhaps it’s only expected that your living room, bedroom, or wherever else you have a television may also be vulnerable to prying eyes.
According to a recent report by CNNMoney, a number of modern televisions that have “smart” features like cameras, microphones, and Internet connectivity may have been compromised. Samsung, in particular, seems to have had vulnerabilities:
The flaws in Samsung Smart TVs, which have now been patched, enabled hackers to remotely turn on the TVs’ built-in cameras without leaving any trace of it on the screen. While you’re watching TV, a hacker anywhere around the world could have been watching you. Hackers also could have easily rerouted an unsuspecting user to a malicious website to steal bank account information.
Samsung quickly fixed the problem after security researchers at iSEC Partners informed the company about the bugs. Samsung sent a software update to all affected TVs.
But the glitches speak to a larger problem of gadgets that connect to the Internet but have virtually no security to speak of.
Security cameras, lights, heating control systems and even door locks and windows are now increasingly coming with features that allow users to control them remotely. Without proper security controls, there’s little to stop hackers from invading users’ privacy, stealing personal information or spying on people. [Emphasis added]
SeungJin Lee, an expert at the annual Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, said hackers can work even if you turn the television off. “Lee showed off an attack on a Samsung television that allowed him to insert fake news stories into a Smart TV’s internet browser,” Yahoo News wrote.
“If there’s a vulnerability in any application, there’s a vulnerability in the entire TV,” iSEC analyst Aaron Grattafiori added.
Speaking with CNNMoney, Samsung said the company values user safety and said customers can cover up the cameras or unplug from the home network when convenient if they still have concerns.
NBC News actually published an article in March of 2012 warning of the potential issues with the new technology, after going over new features like face recognition software that was said to optimize each user’s experience.
“We began to wonder exactly what data Samsung collects from its new ‘eyes and ears’ and how it and other companies intend use it…” Gary Merson wrote. “HD Guru recommends you weigh the possibilities and decide whether or not you care about its unknown personal privacy risks before purchasing one of these HDTVs.”
And iSEC, which raised the alarm about the recent hacking issue, is not convinced the issue is completely resolved.
“We know that the way we were able to do this has been fixed; it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways that could be discovered in the future, ” analyst Josh Yavor remarked.
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