Consumer Reports found millions of smart TVs from major manufacturers can be controlled by even NOVICE hackers who just want to exploit easy to-find security flaws. You can opt out of this, but then the TV reverts to "dumb" status preventing you from using any streaming services. Based on what they found, it seems that TV sets by TCL (who makes some of Roku's streaming media players) and Samsung had flaws in them, which allowed the researchers to remotely control the TV's volume, cycle through channels, open YouTube content, knock the TV off the WiFi network, and so on. The company added that third-party developers are able to create remote control applications by using an open interface that the company designed and published, and which can be turned off by going into the TV's system settings and disabling the feature. Roku notes that users can turn off the External Control feature while Samsung says that it is evaluating the issue and working on an update that should address some of Consumer Reports' concerns. "This means that even extremely unsophisticated hackers can take control of Rokus".
Consumer Reports says they were able to take over the remote control for the Samsung and TCL televisions. Roku, on the other hand, hit back hard, in a blog post entitled "Consumer Reports Got it Wrong". It is unfortunate that the feature was reported in this way. At the same time, she stresses that this can cause limited damage - "there is no security risk to a customer's account or to the Roku platform". And with smart TVs becoming more readily available - only 16 of more than 200 midsize to large sets rated by Consumer Reports are of the dumb variety - it more important that consumers are aware of what they are getting themselves into when purchasing these types of devices.
It said that "every smart TV we evaluated asked for permission to collect viewing data and other kinds of information". Consumer Reports is clear that none of the vulnerabilities it has found would allow the hacker to spy on the user or steal any of their information.
Do you think you play too fast and free with privacy policies?
To find out more about what you can do to protect your personal privacy, and limit the amount of data your smart TV is collecting about you, you can go to Consumer Reports.org for instructions specific to your TV.