Expert warns of Smart TV risks

Smart TVs may make your other devices more vulnerable to hackers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We all know TVs are getting cheaper and smarter. These days, you can get them with all kinds of features that make our lives easier. We are using our voices to browse the internet and using our TVs to video chat with a friend while watching a favorite show.

“I own a TV and use it as TV only,” said information security specialist Gaelan Adams.

Adams said smart TVs are minicomputers and are vulnerable because they use cellphone operating systems.

“Many TVs are running this Android operation system and they are running a much older version of it, so that means it doesn’t have the latest security,” Adams explained.

But, he said, it is not the TV itself the hackers want. The thieves are trying to gain access to valuable information stored on other devices you own.

“When they hack your TV, now they can hack your tablet, desktop or your laptop because they are all on the same wireless network,” he said.

It’s not just about stealing your personal information. They are also checking your smart TV’s camera to see when no one is home.

“When they know you’re not home, they can call a local person to come steal stuff,” warned Adams.

Osmond Ebanks loves his smart TV, but said thinking about what can happen makes him nervous.

“It’s like breaking into your house. It’s an invasion. You got your bank, and your private thoughts, and people can just walk in or break in; that’s a little too much,“ Ebanks said.

But there are ways to protect yourself. You can disconnect your TV from the internet or try using media streaming devices, like Roku.

“These are devices that can connect to your TV and still get the same functionality out of it, but it doesn’t give the same vulnerabilities that your smart TV does,” said Adams.

But if you want to use the smart features on your TV, getting a wireless router with a built-in firewall will help secure your network.

“It looks for things that don’t look correct and stops them,” explained Adams. “It acts like a giant wall. It says, ‘No, this is not allowed.'"

It’s also important to note that some smart TV models, especially those from Vizio, have a setting called a “smart interactivity feature.” That means the TV by default monitors your viewing behavior and sends it to third parties. (Vizio privacy policy)

Vizio said the purpose is to enhance your experience with your TV. You can easily shut that feature off by going to the Settings menu. (Directions here)

But experts warn that security features haven't completely caught up yet, leaving you and your personal information vulnerable to hackers.