Your smart TV is spying on you, Smart-TV

Your smart TV is spying on you

There is more than one-in-four chance that your smart TV is spying on you – and it is spreading lots of information about you around on the internet. Even worse, you have no idea what information is being collected, who is receiving this data, and what they will do with it.

What does a smart TV do?

It is simply an always-on, always-connected computer with a big monitor. Among other features, they make it easy for users to connect to streaming media services via a broadband connection. With this connection, users can browse the internet, tap video-on-demand services, and listen to their favorite music. Thanks to their integration of voice recognition tools such as Alexa, users don’t even have to touch the remote control as they surf between channels.

Your TV is getting smarter

Driven by this potential, the average home is getting smarter, at least when it comes to their TV sets. More than a quarter of all TV households in Germany (27.6%) were watching a smart TV in 2016 according to Statista data. As manufacturers add more smart features and consumers switch to streaming their favorite content, the popularity of smart TVs has nearly tripled from the 11% penetration level in 2013. The clear trend is for all TVs to have some smart features such as integrated streaming or AI-powered personal assistants soon.

Channeling the future

Connected TVs are already one of the most frequently adopted IoT devices. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Manufacturers are working to transform them into the management hub of the entire house, integrating everything such as thermostats, lights, and locks. The possibilities are huge. Global smart TV sales are expected to hit $300 billion this year – and explode to 1,500 billion by 2027.

1984 book scenario?

The fear that a connected TV could be transformed into the telescreen portrayed in Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 is rarely mentioned. “YOU! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that,” shouted the fitness leader to Winston Smith, the main character in 1984 book. Yet, there are no reports of a TV watching viewers and commanding them to exercise: at first glance, it seems obvious that people would just not accept – and certainly not buy – any device that could be so blatantly intrusive into their daily activities.

What happens in one smart TV hour

But people do buy such devices – and these IoT devices know a lot about their owners. In a single hour, Avira SafeThings™ found that a smart TV did a lot of snooping and informing on its household:

  • Opened three vulnerable ports to the internet.
  • Scanned the home network for other connected devices.
  • Collected 750 text pages of information about the person using the device and how the person used it.
  • Sent this information to 13 servers – many of them are unknown.
  • Relayed information to services that hadn’t been enabled and had no user accounts registered.

Even worse, it did all this when nobody in the household was actively using the device.

It’s a matter of trust

It’s not just your IoT TV that acts like this – other smart devices are behaving similarly. While some of this tracking can be justified – the manufacturer wants to see how well their device is working or the content provider wants to chart your viewing habits – it is not clear what is being collected and where this data is going to. It is also an open question if you as the TV owner have agreed to this data being collected. The easiest justification is that you simply trust that the manufacturer and their army of trackers would not do anything wrong.

Aggressive tracking without permission is malware

Unverified trust is dangerous. Avira has traditionally taken a strong stand against apps such as SilverPush that collected data from users without their permission and classified them as malware.

Related article

While connected TVs are among the most secure devices in the Internet of Things, researchers have already found that they can be hacked and taken over by a remote attacker. Given these security issues, a way to intelligently monitor and control the trustworthiness of these smart devices is needed.

Secure your smart home with Avira SafeThings™

Avira SafeThings™ controls how trustworthy smart TVs and other devices are – and regulates their activities.

Avira’s advanced AI and machine learning techniques have nearly a decade of experience in identifying and blocking malware. By extending this expertise to IoT, Avira SafeThings™ can identify smart devices in the house, determine normal behavior patterns, and then automatically enforce a security and privacy umbrella at the gateway.

SafeThings™ provides you with a transparent look at what is going on in your home network. It can run completely autonomously but it also gives you the ability to finetune device activities. Installed on top of your existing infrastructure (router or at the internet gateway) by the provider, SafeThings™ frees you from any installation headaches or the need to buy additional hardware.

Yes, your TV is spying on you – and with Avira SafeThings™ you have the tool to stop this tracking.

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Avira, a company with over 100 million customers and more than 500 employees, is a worldwide leading supplier of self-developed security solutions for professional and private use. With more than 25 years of experience, the company is a pioneer in its field.