Smart TVs are incredibly easy to hack. In a report from last year, hackers had discovered an easy exploit in Samsung Smart TVs that allowed them to take control of the camera and spy on the owner of said TV. A similar hack has one Congressman very concerned.
Sen. Chuck Schumer wrote a letter to television manufacturers earlier this week detailing his concerns regarding the security of smart TVs. He points to an exploit shown off at Black Hat USA last week in Las Vegas that allowed hackers to remotely take control of the microphone and camera in a smart TV. In response to this revelation, he asks TV manufacturers to work on security in smart TVs.
“You expect to watch TV, but you don’t want the TV watching you,” said Schumer. “Many of these smart televisions are vulnerable to hackers who can spy on you while you’re watching TV in your living room. Our computers have access to firewalls and other security blocks but these televisions do not and that’s why manufacturers should do everything possible to create a standard of security in their internet-connected products.”
Some might scoff at Schumer's concern since smart TVs aren't exactly flying off store shelves. That might not be the case for much longer, however, as Gartner predicted in late 2012 that most TVs will be connected to the Internet by 2016. That doesn't necessarily mean that these TVs will have cameras and microphones, but they can still be accessed remotely by hackers. What if TVs start to store transaction data locally for when viewers buy movies or TV shows? A simple hack could lead to identity theft on a grand scale.
Schumer's main concern may be hackers spying on consumers, but I would argue that the above scenario is a far more pressing issue. Hackers would really have no interest in seeing what you're doing in your living room. They're far more interested in the information that may be stored on the television, and security standards should be updated to prevent that data from being stolen.
Here's the letter Schumer sent to television manufacturers in full:
[h/t: The Hill]
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