Schumer: Your TV can spy on you - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Schumer: Your TV can spy on you


NEW YORK, NY - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on major television manufacturers to create a uniform standard of security to be used in all new internet and video enabled televisions that would prevent hackers from spying on consumers.

Last week, a security research group presented to a technology conference in Las Vegas, highlighting a flaw in so-called "smart" TVs that allowed them to hack into the appliances, activating the microphones and embedded cameras and monitoring them remotely.  The same methods applied to a television in a home would allow hackers to view and record everything going on in the room that contained the television.  Even more disturbing, security experts have suggested that few of these new televisions have strong security measures, or any security measures at all. 

Today Schumer called on the main television manufacturers to improve the security software used in these smart TVs by coming together and creating a uniform minimum security standard that could be followed by everyone in the industry. The gaps in security create a problem for all manufacturers, and an industry wide solution would reduce the cost and increase the ease with which it could be implemented.  Schumer noted that most new TV models include microphones, cameras and internet access, but consumers are not as vigilant as they are with their computers because hacking appliances is still a relatively new and unknown phenomenon. 

"You expect to watch TV, but you don't want the TV watching you," said Schumer. "Many of these smart televisions are vulnerable to hackers who can spy on you while you're watching tv in your living room. Our computers have access to firewalls and other security blocks but these televisions do not and that's why manufacturers should do everything possible to create a standard of security in their internet-connected products."

"Smart" televisions can be connected to the internet and come equipped with microphones and cameras. Recently, security researchers found that a major problem in different models of the 2012 Samsung Smart TVs. Security researchers were able to tap into the tv's web browser and gain access to the tv's built-in-camera. Additionally, the researchers were able to hack into the browser and lead the users to any website.  In essence, "smart" televisions have the same features as modern computers and laptops but lack the security features like firewalls, making them vulnerable to hackers.

Manufacturers have suggested that to combat hackers, consumers put tape over the camera or unplug the TV when it's not in use, but Schumer said the burden shouldn't be on the consumers alone. 

Schumer today urged major television manufacturers to institute security standards for their "smart" television products. Schumer explained that internet-connected television products are vulnerable to hackers and consumers should not have to feel that they are being spied on. Schumer made the case that a uniform standard of security would assure consumers that the manufacturers are tackling this issue and doing everything to prevent hackers from gaining access into their living room through the television's camera.

"Potentially anyone who can get into your computer can get into your TV," said Dr. George Berg, Professor of Computer Science at UAlbany.

Dr Berg says not only can hackers watch you through your own TV but can also collect personal information.

"They can control the TV or the computer and then once you control the device it's yours to do with as you please. Activate the camera , change the programming, collect data," said Dr. Berg.

Dr. Berg says Smart TV's with similar features to computers like skype, lack security firewalls.

"The TV is just more of a consumer device. You're not suppose to have to go in and program it or secure it yourself. It's suppose to work for you," said Dr. Berg.

Geoff Katt sells smart TV's like these at Hippos. He says there are some options that allow you to protect against hackers like cameras you can push back into the TV.


"I think a little bit of caution from somebody who'd be concerned about it is warranted but not anymore than the other electronics in their life," said Katt.

Katt says the store would be open to higher security measures from manufacturers.

"So if the manufacturers did something like that we'd be able to offer that to our customers,"said Katt.

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