Does Your TV Need Antivirus?
One maker of popular laptops and smartphones, recently advised customers to run a virus scan. That's good advice for anyone who owns a computer or mobile device, but this warning was directed at “smart TV” owners. Wait, your TV can get a virus? Do smart TV sets really need anti-malware protection? Here's what you need to know...
Can Your Smart TV Get a Virus?
Yesterday, a message was posted on Samsung's customer support Twitter account, advising consumers to “Prevent malicious software attacks on your TV by scanning for viruses on your TV every few weeks.” A video accompanied the tweet, providing (not so simple) instructions for how to run the malware scan. Oddly, the tweet was later deleted, but not because the advice was wrong. More likely, it was deemed bad PR, and some well-meaning person at Samsung was reprimanded or fired.
The truth is, your smart TV -- and almost any device connected to the Internet -- can be attacked and compromised by a virus. Samsung's wifi-connected televisions are really computers with huge screens, and they do come with antivirus software pre-installed. The obvious problem is that Samsung didn't configure these expensive gadgets to AUTOMATICALLY run the virus scan.
And why suggest running a malware scan "every few weeks?" Today's smart TVs can store your name, address, email and credit card number, to enable the purchase of video on demand content from Netflix, Amazon, and other streaming services. They're also connected to your home network, potentially serving as an attack vector for your other connected devices. That built-in antivirus protection should be running constantly, just like it does on your desktop or laptop computer.
Oh, and in addition to the potential for identity theft and the compromise of your home network, remember that your smart TV is listening for voice commands. Information about an exploit code-named “Weeping Angel” was published on Wikileaks in 2017, claiming that it could effectively turn a Samsung TV into a bug, “recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.”
If any of that has you worried, here's how to run a virus scan on a Samsung QLED TV. First, open the menu, then navigate to General, then System Manager, then Smart Security and tap the "Scan" option. Something this important should not be buried three or four levels deep in the settings.
The View From 30,000 Feet
But let's back up for just a minute. If you're worried about the potential for your television spying on you, remember that these same listening capabilities are advertised features of your laptop, smartphone, and digital assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home. They're all listening, recording and storing what they hear, because you've given them explicit permission to do so. Some of them are more transparent about privacy, and some of them offer the option to delete those recordings. Whether or not they can be trusted is another question.
Samsung appears to be the only smart tv manufacturer that advertises the presence of antivirus software on their devices. I actually give them credit for admitting that smart TVs are vulnerable to malware and hacking. Other popular vendors such as Sony, LG, Vizio, TCL, and Insignia are silent on the issue, but that doesn't mean they are more secure.
In January 2017, a story was published about ransomware on an LG Smart TV. In October 2018, Sony detected a flaw in their Bravia Smart TV line that could allow remote code execution. They proactively fixed that with an update pushed out to the affected devices.
In my opinion, the threat is real but not (yet) so great, because TVs aren't as juicy a target as computers and smartphones. Hackers and cyber-criminals invariably go for the low-hanging fruit. But I'm sure that smart TV attacks will become more common soon. For now, pay attention to any messages from the TV manufacturer, and make sure that your set has the ability to receive automatic security updates. And yeah, if you have a Samsung with the virus scanner, run that thing a little more often than "every few weeks".
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 18 Jun 2019
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Does Your TV Need Antivirus? (Posted: 18 Jun 2019)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved