Smart TVs have become the digital entertainment center of our home. Devices that not only allow us to watch television broadcasts of a lifetime but also connect to the network to offer us easy access to a new world of streaming applications and remote content. However, like any device connected to the network, security problems are a severe threat to both these computers and their users. So let’s answer this question by analyzing the current context in which these devices move.
The Birth of Smart TV
Smart TV is a new device with a few years in the market. He has not yet reached the age of 10 at the time of writing these lines. And it is that these televisions were launched commercially in 2010, with the desire to offer more convenient access to the new digital content that, at that time, began to be provided to users.
A time in which the digital threats were not as dangerous as they are today, which in part caused the developers not to put too much interest in protecting these computers. Something similar to what happened with the first smartphones, everything is said.
Threats and the Internet of things
However, this new world of the Internet soon became the perfect fishing ground in which hackers, data traffickers, and other characters from the digital underworld used to carry out their crimes. Something that today is the order of the day, with all kinds of threats to users.
This is a situation that comes in parallel to the new environment of the so-called Internet of Things. This context refers to the ecosystem generated by the large number of devices connected to the network, ranging from the Smart TV or Blu-Ray player to the PC or laptop but also to the mobile, the fridge or even the oven, in addition to other smart devices that we have at home today. A context that, oddly enough, maintains the individual ingenuity of the first Smart TV in terms of protecting the environment, being a source of considerable vulnerabilities.
Some historical cases
As proof of this kind of weaknesses, focusing again on Smart TVs, there have been a series of events that have caused not a few problems for users. The first one was presented on Samsung connected TVs, in which a hacker could take control of social media applications and publish what he wanted on behalf of the user. Televisions that were also affected by a problem that allowed the camera and microphone to be activated remotely or another incident that inserted false news into the device’s search engine, to the taste of the attacker.
In 2014 there was another attack on the so-called HbbTV, a well-known standard for Smart TVs and that had such serious weaknesses that, with the execution of malicious code, all types of televisions could be used to hijack the devices located in the network in which they were installed, display fake warnings and even steal information. It is a problem that was reproduced in 2017, with this same device.
In this case, it was enough to send a signal over the air, using conventional television, to take control of the TV and access elements such as the microphone, the camera, or access to personal data. A vulnerability that affected 9 out of 10 devices sold in recent years.
As the last example, a study by Consumer Reports conducted on five different television brands with a different Smart TV platform showed that millions of these products could be controlled remotely by attackers who executed malicious code. It is a problem that, according to the result of this association, also did not require extensive technical knowledge. Among the effects of these attacks was the possibility of installing new apps, increasing the volume, and, of course, accessing all the data that users have on their device.
Data and new functions, new problems
One of the issues that stands out when reading the problems caused by this lack of security in the devices has to do with the use of Smart TVs. And it is that in a context in which computer attackers find it more profitable to steal data than to “break devices,” it is evident that new viruses will be silent, discreet and will try to take everything they can, for the benefit of creators of those viruses and attacks.
It is something that has to do also with the new functions that incorporate these devices and that have not always been adequately protected by the manufacturers. The proof is that many computers that have voice control send those files without encryption, being therefore accessible to anyone who intercepts the connection. The lack of protection of the cameras as with the laptops can be switched on remotely by an attacker and pose a severe attack on our privacy.
At this point, you may know what our answer to the question of whether a Smart TV is safe will be. The answer is that today, this device is not secure. This answer has to do mainly with the carelessness of some manufacturers who have not adequately protected their equipment so that they are safe, leaving all kinds of doors open for attackers.
However, the saying goes that it is better late than never. And the current security threat that affects these devices has indeed caused brands to change their minds, which is perceived mainly in the most current models. The sample is in LG models, whose version 4 of Web OS has the UL Cybersecurity certificate, which shows greater security. Something that will gradually extend to the rest of the manufacturers, although the door will always leave something opens in older models.