It's hard to imagine that simply doing something that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people did over this weekend would be worthy of a warning from the FBI, but if you bought a smart TV you might want to read on. The FBI says your new TV might be the thing hackers use to break into your home. Yes, that FBI.
As if there weren't already enough online threats to worry about, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is trying to ruin your excitement over the amazing deal you got on that brand new 65" 4K television destined for the wall in your living room. Talk about a buzzkill. Can it really be that bad?
Yes, it can. As the FBI warns:
"Beyond the risk that your TV manufacturer and app developers may be listening and watching you, that television can also be a gateway for hackers to come into your home. A bad cyber actor may not be able to access your locked-down computer directly, but it is possible that your unsecured TV can give him or her an easy way in the backdoor through your router."
Most of us, if we're paying attention, at least try to practice good cyber-hygiene when it comes to our laptops or smartphones. We turn on features like FaceID or TouchID. We activate two-factor authentication for important online accounts. We don't share passwords.
Wait, you share your passwords? Be careful. Netflix isn't cool with that anymore.
But I digress.
None of those best practices exist on smart TVs. Even though they are connected to the internet, and many are equipped with cameras and microphones, they're remarkably un-secure. That means many of us just added a camera and microphone to our living rooms--or, even worse, bedrooms--many of which can be hacked with very little effort.
Look, the reality is that your smart TV is probably not the most likely target of a hacker. In fact, even the FBI admits that attacks like this are rare. Then again, it's reasonable to wonder whether most of us would even know if our TV microphone was hacked.
There's a general rule that applies here. Actually, I have no idea if it's really a rule, but it's certainly something worth thinking about: The more technology improves your life, and the more you come to depend on it, the greater the potential it has to cause you harm.
The FBI suggests regularly updating the security software on your TV, but if you're worried, there's always MacGyver's favorite solution--black tape over the camera (which is actually the FBI's recommendation).
I have a better idea--save yourself the money and just buy one without a microphone and camera. Who really needs those in a TV anyway? Considering every laptop, smartphone, and smart home device already has one or both, do you really need another in your TV? Or, even better, just skip the smart TV and buy one without an internet connection. That might be the smartest solution of all.