We Live in a Time When Our TV Sets Are Hackable

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These days, it seems like every device around us is getting smarter. You can have a smart coffee machine brewing coffee 10 minutes before you wake up in the morning. Smart toasters and breakfast makers can whip up pancakes or a full breakfast automatically. Waking up to a hot meal and a nice cup of coffee is now an automated process.

It doesn’t stop there either. Thermostats and air conditioners can now be controlled remotely and programmed to do certain things. TV sets are equipped with their own operating systems – mostly Android or WebOS, but other operating systems are also available – and they are getting smarter. Smart TVs, however, are not without their vulnerabilities.

Smart Features and OTA Updates

Smart TVs are appealing indeed. Instead of playing content from ancient DVD players via an HDMI cable, TVs are now equipped with wireless casting ability, allowing you to stream content from your phone or computer wirelessly.

Even better, smart TVs support native streaming apps like Netflix, HBO Go, Spotify, and Amazon Prime. You can choose which TV series or movies you want to watch directly from the TV. Some TVs even support the downloading of content to an internal storage drive.

Other features are just as interesting. Some smart TVs let you browse the internet and watch YouTube videos on a large screen. Others let you play games like Fortnite and PUBG interactively using a Bluetooth controller or the standard remote control.

All of these features are made possible by the use of an operating system powering modern smart TVs. Those operating systems, however, are still vulnerable to attacks and hacks. Even worse, not all smart TV manufacturers release OTA updates regularly.

Even when updates are available, there is no guarantee that you – the user – will update your smart TV or wireless streaming device regularly. This means security holes aren’t always patched in time and the risk of getting your smart TV hacked is even higher.

Hackable TVs

So, what can an attacker do when they gain access to your smart TV? Before we can answer that question, we need to look at the types of attack that can happen when you have a vulnerable smart TV with an outdated operating system.

An attacker can simply scan your TV’s WI-Fi node and connect to the device. Alternatively, the attack can happen over the internet, with the vulnerable TV’s public IP address being discovered through a scan for open IoT devices. For those, who are not very familiar with IP address, check Proxyway website.

Open ports will be the way through which attackers can inject malicious scripts. The next time you open the Netflix app to watch your favorite TV series, the script gets executed and the smart TV starts scanning your internal network for more vulnerable devices.

Once a smart TV is hacked, there are several things that attackers can do with it. The smart TV can be injected with a keylogger, which means any account detail you enter on the TV can be captured. This may not appear to be a serious threat at first, but the rest of your accounts are immediately compromised if you use the same password and email combination for all of them.

The smart TV as well as other vulnerable devices in your network – including your access point and router – can also be turned into a bot. Large botnets are known to be responsible for attacks like DDoS and your smart devices can be some of the bots from which those attacks originated.

When your smart TV is part of a botnet, additional implications are to be expected. For starters, your IP address may get banned if it is identified as a bot or the source of malicious scripts. Don’t forget that network devices and storage hardware also become vulnerable.

Mitigating the Risks

There have been many cases where smart TVs and streaming devices were turned into bots for launching bigger attacks. Firestick users who used Firestick Modbro APK were victims of a malicious script designed to turn their Firestick into performing malicious botnet activities. Cases involving Samsung Smart TVs, Google Chromecast, and even Apple TV are also quite common.

This is a basic risk faced by all smart devices; yes, that includes your smart toaster and coffee maker. Security was never a priority in the development of IoT devices due to their limited capabilities. When the first botnet attack was launched, IoT experts began to realize just how important securing their devices was.

Actions are being taken to mitigate the risk. More updates are being pushed to smart devices already on the market. Security patches and OTA updates are also quite common, even for devices with proprietary operating systems or kernels. The best way to mitigate this risk, however, is by unplugging your smart devices from the internet. Just because your TV can connect to the internet it doesn’t mean you have to connect it and risk having your TV hacked.

Tech Digest Correspondent