We’ve been worrying about cybercriminals getting into our PCs for a long time now, and into our Macs for a little less time. Apart from the respective strengths of Apple’s security features, the main reason that Macs took longer to be a risk was simple market share; the hackers were more attracted to 85% of users than to the remaining 15%. Let’s see how internet enabled tv may be targets for hackers.
Smart TVs: A New Target For Hackers
Still, every new Internet-connected device comes with some potential for hacking, and the new generation of Smart TVs is no different. We’re getting closer to the Post-PC Era, and that means hackers will be learning how to get into alternative devices. And with a projected 80 Million U.S. households getting Internet-connected TVs over the next three years, you can bet that your “central” device will be a prime target.
At the most basic level, a Smart TV is nothing more than a TV with a computer built in. You still have an Internet connection to a service provider. And that makes it a doorway to a virtual world crawling with people who want to mess with your stuff — for personal gain, with malicious intent, or just to see if they can do it. If hackers can get into smartphones, TV providers’ set-top boxes, and smart utility meters, they can certainly get into your Smart TV.
Why Are Internet Enabled TV Vulnerable To Attack?
Most Smart TVs offer many of the “attack vectors” exploited by the majority of cybercriminals. The typical setup is an app-based system, which we know has caused numerous headaches for Android (and less commonly, iPhone) users. Malicious apps are developed and released to the markets all the time — stealing passwords, detecting locations, and providing an “open door” for further attacks.
Also, Smart TVs present some particular dangers. For one thing, in addition to having a direct Ethernet connection to the Internet, they often exist on a home network, Wi-Fi or are hardwired; perhaps even taking the place of a secure router as the central Media Center device. On a related note, Smart TVs are less likely to contain the more sophisticated security hardware and software that has become common to mainstream operating systems and network hardware. They may be Smart TVs, but they’re dumb computers.
Think about how long you’re likely to keep your TV around, especially when it’s a particularly big-ticket item like one of LG’s Cinema 3D Smart TVs. Then think about how many new security threats have appeared since you last bought a TV. And finally, think about the fact that TV manufacturers won’t support a product for very long, and definitely won’t be as vigilant as OS developers to provide patches and fixes.
Alas, we consumers won’t be as likely to apply patches when they do appear. When only computer nerds had computers, more computers were safer; because nerds understood security risks, and how to combat them. When that expanded to include more generally “tech-savvy” folks, that’s when security systems started having more holes. And when Internet-connected devices became widespread and mainstream, there were a vast number of connected people who just couldn’t take the time to understand things like authentication, encryption, and firewalls.
How to Prevent Your Smart TV from Becoming a Target
What can you do? Well, perhaps just enough to let you sleep at night. Put your Smart TV behind a good router, with strong password encrypted authentication and a solid firewall. If your Smart TV’s market has security and anti-virus apps, check them out too. See if you can get a hardwired connection to your router, rather than depending on Wi-Fi. When surfing the ‘net, use HTTPS whenever possible, and when checking email, avoid viewing attachments or clicking on links unless you’re absolutely sure they’re safe.
Don’t let these warnings scare you away from Smart TVs; they’re a great way to get an all-in-one HTPC setup without the clutter and aesthetic issues of placing a PC in your living room. As long as you take basic security precautions, Smart TVs are no less safe than the average Internet-connected PC.