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FBI Warns Smart TVs Could Be Spying on Users

A man walks past television screens during the shopping season. November 16, 2018. (Henry Romero/Reuters)

An Oregon FBI field office is warning that hackers could use smart televisions to spy or cyber-stalk, encouraging users to up their security around the devices.

“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,” the Portland, Oregon FBI office said Tuesday in a report.

If a hacker takes control of an unsecured television that is connected to the internet, as smart TVs are, they could do anything from change the channel, to play inappropriate videos for children, to turn on a camera or microphone in a bedroom, the FBI said. Some televisions are even equipped with facial recognition so the television can suggest appropriate programming.

“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,” the report said.

The FBI encouraged users to be aware of the various features of their smart TV and know how to change passwords and turn off microphones and cameras. The old tactic of putting black tape over the camera lens still works, the agency added. Users should also be aware of the personal data use practices of the streaming services they use, such as Netflix, Hulu, and the newest addition, Disney Plus.

The FBI encouraged those who believe they have been victims of cyber fraud to contact the agency. The report comes as shoppers begin their holiday search for gift and deals, including the newest smart TV models.

One in four of the 6.6 million people who are victims of stalking every year are stalked through some kind of technology, according to The National Center for Victims of Crime.

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