It’s hard to fathom what really makes a TV smart, but the marketing geniuses at just about every manufacturer seem to think that a “Smart TV” is a TV that can connect to the internet and stream content.

Basically it means Netflix etc. can be played via your TV remote. The reality now that many people use another device to stream their content from, be it a set top box or streaming from their phones. In any case, it drives volumes of sales – and TV manufacturers really like that – and people love binge-watching the latest shows.

The setup

Humans are an incredibly obliging species, so when you’re connecting your new TV up you’ll get prompted to setup your WiFi. Why? Oh for the newest features and security updates! I don’t remember a time when my old “dumb” TV had a security concern – but ok, let’s connect up.

Have you read the fine print?

Nope. Ever heard of Samba TV? Well TV manufacturers struggle to make a margin in the highly competitive and low margin game of TV’s, so they partner with data companies like Samba TV. These companies use software called “automatic content recognition” to track what you watch. They then use that data to serve you highly targeted ads on other smart devices you have in your home.

Whilst Samba TV is an opt-in service (I mean, why would you?) some privacy advocates believe that Samba hasn’t been all that transparent about the method they use to collect data and who they ultimately sold it to.

And it’s not the first time this sort of thing has come up. In 2017 a smart TV company name Vizio paid a $2.2M fine for collecting and selling viewer data without consent.

Making things worse, this 2018 report showed that smart TV’s can be controlled remotely using relatively unsophisticated methods.

Whilst vulnerabilities are being patched all the time, new vulnerabilities are continuing to be found. Recently a pair of hackers compromised over 72,000 chromecasts, google homes and smart tv’s.

I don’t care if people know what I’m watching

Think about what they can infer from this data. Your daily routine is the most obvious that could easily let a local burglar know when you’re most likely not to be home.

Does your smart TV have a microphone in it for voice controls? In 2017 Wikileaks published a claim that the CIA has the ability to hack Samsung smart TV’s and secretly record and transmit audio. It even worked when the TV was off.

Keeping your Smart TV safe

Whilst the implications of a hacked TV are moderately low at this point in time, your TV could be used as a gateway into your network – just like this fishtank thermometer that was connected to a Casino’s corporate network. Got TV’s at work? Which network are they connected to?

Don’t jailbreak your TV

Some people like to “jailbreak” their devices so they can watch content they’ve acquired illegally. But this can compromise the device’s protection and could leave you more vulnerable to attacks.

Use encryption

Use WPA2 encryption for your WiFi security and don’t broadcast your SSID (wireless network name)

Create a guest network

Guest networks are great for the home and office so that visitors are using your internet on a completely separate network