Originally published February 1 2013
Is your television watching YOU? Smart TVs can spy on their owners
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) It sounds like some wild conspiracy theory or like something out of a science fiction movie, but it's true: it's possible that while you're watching your television, it could be watching you.
A security firm has discovered a glitch in Samsung's Smart TV that "can give hackers access to the device's built-in camera and microphones, allowing them to watch everything you do," RT.com reported recently.
The Malta-based security company, ReVuln, posted a video demonstrating how a team of researchers were able to hack into the Smart TV and access its setting, widgets, channel lists, USB drives and configurations for its remote control. The flaw permits hackers to gain access to any and all personal data stored on the TV as well, said the firm.
"We can install malicious software to gain complete root access to the TV," the video noted.
'I always feel like somebody's watching me...'
With that kind of access, hackers are able to use the television's built-in camera and mics to see and hear everything that is in front of it (like you). "Instead of just watching TV, viewers could themselves be watched without knowing it," said RT.com.
Moreover, the flaw is not inherent on just one model - it is present on all 11 Samsung TVs of the company's latest generation of sets. The Smart TVs feature many of the same components as do computers, but they don't have the same kinds of protections, like firewalls and antivirus software.
There is at least some good news, though. In order to breach your TV, hackers first have to breach the network the television is connected to, and they must know the IP address of the device. As such, security breaches most likely would only occur as a targeted attack against a particular individual, not something that would occur randomly.
A co-founder of ReVuln, Luigi Auriemma, told NBC News that his firm's primary concern is that hackers may be able to target specific individuals or companies in whose businesses they have an interest.
"In our opinion, it's more interesting and realistic to think about attacks [against] specific targets reached via open/weak/hacked Wi-Fi or compromised computers of a network, instead of mass-exploiting via the Internet," Auriemma said in a statement. "That's interesting due to the effects of the vulnerability (retrieving information and the possibility of monitoring) which are perfect for targeted attacks, from a specific person with a TV at home to a company with TVs in its offices."
Hackers must be connected to a local network in order to access a Smart TV, said reports, so it becomes extremely important to keep wifi passwords secure. Also, anyone who has stalkers or who keeps valuable data on their device should be particularly careful, experts note.
"Consider that little kid next door that's good with computers," Travis Carelock, content director and research technologist at Black Hat, said, according to RT.com.
"We're moving into a whole different world," added Trey Ford, general manager of the group. "Growing up, you and I didn't have a wirelessly connected camera pointing at the couch."
'A whole lot more fun'
The security firm said owners of any of the plasma 8000 series, the 7500 LED LCD series, the 8000 LED LCD series or the 9000 LED LCD series should seriously consider keeping all personal data off their TVs and then be careful about what is said or done in the presence of the TV.
While such devices are technologically promising, the security flaw can definitely become problematic.
"That's what will make this a whole lot more fun in the future," Ford said.
Samsung has since announced it is launching an investigation into the security flaw. No word on how it might be fixed.
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