Technology Is your smart TV too wise? The FBI warns your screen is watching you

11:32  05 december  2019
11:32  05 december  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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Consumers, beware of that smart TV in your living room. As we've told you before, it could be spying on you.

Now, even the FBI agrees. An Oregon branch put out a statement urging Black Friday shoppers to be aware of the hacking possibilities of their new purchases.

"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," says the FBI.

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Let us explain.

Smart TVs, from such manufacturers as Samsung, LG, Sony and Vizio, eliminate the need for a streaming accessory because they have built-in apps to connect to internet programming from the likes of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

But because they connect to the internet, you now have a two-way machine in your living room. The companies that make the sets can  monitor your viewing habits: what you watch, when you watch and how often, and sell that data to third parties, unless you opt-out, which you can usually do in the Settings. Some manufacturers ask you to opt-in for this when you set up the TV, or force you to go in and opt-out after the fact.

Some TVs have microphones, which hackers could get into to listen in to a living room conversation. For example, Amazon Fire TVs from Toshiba and Insignia, let you ask Alexa to turn the set on and off. And Samsung has sold TVs with built-in cameras for video chat and more since 2012.

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In some cases, reports the FBI, "the cameras are used for facial recognition so the TV knows who is watching and can suggest programming appropriately." Facebook recently introduced a new video chat device, Portal TV, which connects to the TV to enable video chat on the huge living room screen.

Another data breach: T-Mobile says hackers accessed some wireless customers' data

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"In a worst-case scenario, (hackers) can turn on your bedroom TV's camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you," says the FBI.  "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."

So remember folks, choose a good, secure and unique password for your home router. If you haven't changed it in awhile, the holidays are a good time to do it.

With an easy-to crack-password, hackers "can change channels, play with the volume and show your kids inappropriate videos," says the FBI.

Beyond that, one more piece of advice: cover up the TV camera with black tape.

Follow USA TODAY's Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Is your smart TV too wise? The FBI warns your screen is watching you

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