Samsung and Roku smart TVs vulnerable to unsophisticated hacks
08 February, 2018, 06:46
An analysis by Consumer Reports said numerous leading smart TV brands are vulnerable to hacks by people outside your living room.
Essentially, "several problems" were discovered during an analysis of Smart TV offerings from five of the market's biggest vendors - Samsung, Sony, LG, TCL and Vizio, according to Consumer Reports, who not only said the units it tested were capable of tracking what you watch, but certain models from Samsung and TCL were found to have "failed basic security tests".
Testers demonstrated how a hacker could potentially take over your TV - change channels, play offensive content, or turn the volume up to full blast. When CR reached out to Samsung and Roku, both companies said they take privacy and security seriously. He says the application programming interface can be turned off "by going to Settings System Advanced System Settings External Control Disabled". "It's less of a locked door and more of a see-through curtain next to a neon 'We're open!' sign".
In a blog post, Roku's Gary Ellison describes the Consumer Reports study as a "mischaracterization of a feature".
Could your TV be controlled by hackers?
"Roku devices have a totally unsecured remote control API enabled by default", says Eason Goodale, Disconnect's lead engineer. "We want to assure our customers that there is no security risk".
That's in part because they boast a technology dubbed Automatic Content Recognition, which is created to monitor what you watch "in an attempt to do a better job than Nielsen at measuring viewership".
While we're proud of our own testing process here at TrustedReviews, it's fair to say Consumer Reports carries a lot of weight with shoppers, especially in the US. That feature can be combined with other information and used to target advertising on your TV and mobile phone.
Three ways to avoid these exploits include resetting the TV to factory settings and not agree to the collection of viewing data. The third is a deal breaker for most smart TV owners, turn off Wi-Fi.
Alternatively, they suggest reverting to the use of a "dumb TV" to stream your content the old fashioned way (via set-top box) - though there's no guarantee that will even help.