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Smart TV hacking
Your TV's camera may spy on you, says senator

13 Aug 2013 | Rasmus Larsen |

Smart TVs can be used to spy on you via the integrated camera, hackers at the Black Hat Security conference revealed last week. Chuck Schumer, New York senator, reacts and warns about the potential risks in a letter sent to TV makers. He urges TV makers to collaborate on a security standard for TVs.

Your TV's camera may spy on you

In the wake of the NSA surveillance scandal we spot a touch of paranoia in this case but nevertheless spying and hacking is a very real issue and the threat will only become more relevant in the next few years when Smart TVs evolve.

The hacking of Smart TVs actually began in 2012 when a hacker demonstrated how he could easily hack into a TV and use the built-in camera of Samsung’s Smart TV to spy on your family – without anyone ever noticing.

Smart TV
Some fear that Smart TVs can be used to spy on you – or even worse

At last week’s Black Hat Security conference the subject arose again. Once again, Samsung’s Smart TVs were used to demonstrate what the hackers were capable of doing but it is important to emphasize that it is a general issue in Smart TVs. At the hacking conference, iSEC Partners demonstrated how they could easily hack into a 2012 Samsung Smart TV and spy on people via the camera, as well as loading up web pages in the web browser and use other features of the TV. Samsung fixed the security hole shortly after.

Even though it is highly unlikely that a hacker would want to sit and stare at you eating popcorn it brings a number of issues up for debate. iSEC Partners added that very few Smart TVs have strong security and some Smart TVs have no security at all. And when people start renting movies or TV shows on their Smart TVs their credit card details could become a potential target for hackers.

New York Senator reacts

The revelations have made New York senator, Chuck Schumer, concerned. He has formulated an official letter on behalf of the Senate, which has been sent to TV manufacturers. In his letter he urges Smart TV makers to create a security standard for Smart TVs.

The letter in its entirety reads as follows:

Dear Television Manufacturer,

I was disturbed to read recent reports of hackers exploiting new features in television sets in order to break into the home entertainment systems of users and spy on unsuspecting channel surfers. For a TV to secretly function as a spycam would violate a fundamental expectation of privacy in the American home.

As technology has advanced in recent years, we are connected in ways that were previously unimaginable. Televisions now have Wi-Fi, cameras, and other features similar to those of a computer, and are able to complete new and exciting tasks: surfing the internet, making calls, streaming videos and more. These advances can dramatically improve the viewing experience of the American consumers. What has not changed, however, is that Americans expect that when they turn on the television they are in the safety and privacy of their home or office, and not being spied on by hackers.

With these expanding features, televisions must include additional security measures. I would ask that you, as the leading producers of televisions in the United States, work to adopt a uniform set of safety and security standards so that hackers cannot break into our TV’s. It is imperative that we protect people that purchase televisions with these features from being hacked or spied on, and possibly divulging information they do not desire to.

I look forward to hearing from you on this important issue.


U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer

In his press release the senator adds that some manufacturers have suggested that consumers simply put tape over their TV camera if they are concerned.

- Source: Black Hat Security, WebProNews

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