Lots of people buy TVs on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but there’s a lot you’ll want to consider when setting up a smart TV—more than just plugging everything in. As with any internet-based product, smart TVs are vulnerable to hacking and security exploits.
A hacked TV might sound like something you’d find on your favourite crime drama, but it’s a very real possibility. In fact, even the US' FBI has stepped in to warn customers about the potential dangers smart TVs pose, as pointed out in a recent Inc.com column. Here are a few of their tips, mixed in with some of our suggestions for upping the security of your smart TV:
Make sure your accounts are secure
First and foremost, always keep your TV’s user accounts and in-app profiles safe and secure by obeying strict sign-in requirements.
Set up two-factor authentication (2FA) in apps or services when possible. In instances where 2FA is unavailable, at least make sure you have to enter passwords, pin numbers, or use biometric sign-ins for when you log into your TV or try to make purchases.
Keep as much personal and financial information out of your TV or TV’s apps as you can.
Create secondary user profiles with their own sign-in information and usage restrictions when possible.
Don’t share passwords or login info to your TV’s master accounts.
Always install firmware and apps updates for your TV
The process of installing system updates on your TV can differ for each model and manufacturer, so check your user guide if you need specific instructions. If given the option, make sure any auto-update options are enabled, since you’re otherwise going to forget to check for (or install) updates throughout the year.
Make sure you’re also keeping on top of any app updates, too. Smart TVs usually update your apps automatically, but if your TV is asking you to manually initiate an installation or to reset the TV to complete an update, don’t ignore it. Putting off an update may expose you to vulnerabilities that have been fixed in an app’s newer version.
Disable (or tape up) your TV’s camera and mic
Your smart TV’s mic and camera are probably the most vulnerable and easily exploited features. In a worst-case scenario, they can be used to spy on you and collect personal information that can make breaking into your accounts much easier.
If you don’t use either, you should restrict or disable your TV’s mic and camera via its settings screen. (Your user manual or a quick Google search will probably help you find the settings if you’re not sure where to look.) If all else fails, the FBI recommends taping up the camera with black tape—in fact, this might be worth doing this even if you have the camera disabled in the settings.
Similarly, stick with your smart TV’s dedicated remote and don’t use smartphone remote apps, if possible, since they can make it easier for hackers to grab login information if your device is otherwise compromised.
Tune up your home network’s security
Keeping your home network as secure as possible is the best way to protect the devices synced up to it—whether that’s your smart TV, wifi router, or other smart devices and peripherals. Check out our guide for router and wifi security tips.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, smart TVs are the worst. The extra software is usually clunky enough to get in the way of whatever you actually wanted to watch, and updates don't come as quickly or consistently as they do on standalone streaming devices. Most models come with some serious privacy issues as well, since companies often use them to track what you watch. Now, there's one more reason to avoid a smart television: You could get hacked.