FBI tells people to put black tape over smart TV cameras to protect against hackers

Chelsea Ritschel

As people take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, the FBI has warned those purchasing smart TVs that some could be used as a window into your home by crooks.

According to the intelligence agency's Portland, Oregon, bureau, which issued a reminder last week, the useful features of a smart TV, such as internet connection, microphones and cameras, are also means that hackers can use to gain access to your home.

“Beyond the risk that your TV manufacturer and app developers may be listening and watching you, that television can also be a gateway for hackers to come into your home,” the FBI wrote. "A bad cyber actor may not be able to access your locked-down computer directly, but it is possible that your unsecured TV can give him or her an easy way in the backdoor through your router."

Hacking can range from the ability to “change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos,” to using the TV’s camera and microphone to “cyber-stalk,” the bureau warned.

Fortunately, there are ways to enjoy the benefits of a smart TV while protecting yourself.

If you have a smart TV, the first thing you should do is “know exactly what features your TV has and how to control those features,” according to the FBI, which is easily done by doing a basic internet search with your model number and key words such as “camera” or “microphone”.

Consumers should also not depend on default security settings, the FBI advises, and should know how to turn off microphones, cameras and collection of personal information if possible. If the TV model does not allow you to turn off the camera, the FBI suggests placing black tape over it - or considering whether you are "willing to take the risk of buying that model or using that service".

The FBI also recommends checking the “manufacturer’s ability to update your device with security patches” and checking the privacy policy for the TV manufacturer and streaming services you use to “confirm what data they collect, how they store that data, and what they do with it”.

The Oregon bureau concluded the reminder advising victims of cyber-fraud to report it to either their local FBI or online to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Centre.

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