Shortly before the 2019 holiday shopping season kicked off, the FBI warned us that smart TVs might be dangerous.
Most of these newer smart TVs have built in cameras, often designed with facial recognition so the TV knows who is watching what and can suggest appropriate programming. Think of Amazon’s “you bought that, so you might be interested in this” service – but for television programs.
Accordingly, the FBI sent this stark warning:
"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. 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."
"Hackers can also take control of your unsecured TV. At the low end of the risk spectrum, they can change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos. In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV's camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you."
The number of smart TVs sold last year was a little more than 198 million and that number is projected to grow to 250 million in four years. And when you consider that there are only 128 million households in the U.S, that means two smart TVs per household.
Now, layer on the fact that nearly 60 million Americans have been affected by identity theft according to an online survey conducted by the Harris Poll.
Do you think fewer of us will be affected by identity theft four years from now?
With gains in technology come cyber criminals who steal our identities, credit card numbers and bank account information.
While you can’t eliminate all identity theft threats, you can reduce the risk with extra precautions. For smart TVs, if you cannot disable the camera easily, the FBI recommends an effective and surprisingly simple fix: place black tape over the camera.
Here are a few more precautions to take in addition to the black tape solution:
Be proactive. Don’t rely on the standard default settings on your smart TV. Change the passwords often and know how to operate the TV, including turning off the microphone, camera, and the TV’s ability to collect personal information. The FBI even warns that “if you can’t turn them off, consider whether you are willing to take the risk of buying that model or using that service.”
Check your credit report often. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to your credit report every 12 months via the website AnnualCreditReport.com. Checking your credit report is a great way to monitor your financial identity.
Check your statements more often. People often discover that they are victims of identity theft long after the theft has taken place. Take the time to review your statements regularly to ensure no one accesses your accounts unlawfully.
Secure your data. It is common sense to not disclose your personal information to just anyone or any website. Beware of phishing, malware and other online frauds.
If you do become a victim of identity theft, report it immediately. Call your bank and credit card companies and have them take appropriate actions. Report the loss or theft of your credit card as quickly as possible.