In the age of technological dependence, we have had to come to grips with persistent technological insecurity. It’s a shaky combination. As we surround ourselves with technology, feeding our information into its memory, much if not most of that tech has proven as secure as a wet-paper bag.
The Spectre and Meltdown flaws that were revealed just over a month ago reinforced the idea that we can’t rely on technology manufacturers to keep our information safe. Now, we once again are forced to face that revelation, as Consumer Reports has revealed that ‘Smart’ TVs from Samsung and TCL are perhaps the most vulnerable technology of all.
It’s not like our television watching habits are the most sacred piece of information that we have (Spectre and Meltdown already took care of those sacred personal nuggets). But, the report revealing the immense vulnerability of our televisions constitutes yet another facet of our life that has been rendered highly-hackable.
Not that we weren’t aware of this already.
Still, the revelations of just how easy it is for hack-savvy bad actors to gain access to your viewing habits and even your television’s built-in camera are concerning. This 2018 report comes years after – tell me if you’ve heard this one before – Samsung assured its users that it had patched the primary vulnerability that hackers could exploit.
Apparently, they didn’t use a very strong adhesive in applying that patch, as the latest reports of Smart TV accessibility are quite damning from a security standpoint.
We found that a relatively unsophisticated hacker could change channels, play offensive content, or crank up the volume, which might be deeply unsettling to someone who didn’t understand what was happening, CR wrote. This could be done over the Web, from thousands of miles away.
And those are just the ‘relatively unsophisticated’ hackers. The report was part of Consumer Reports’ Digital Standard initiative, which aims to hold manufacturers more accountable and inform consumers of how they rate in terms of their products’ security. They say that Smart TVs were a logical starting point, as their data collection is significant and unrealized by most consumers. The automatic content recognition tracks every TV show you watch, and Vizio has admitted to selling their viewers’ watching histories to advertisers and ‘others’, incurring a total of $3.7 million in fines as a result.
Worse, to many who remain outside of the tech community due to age, inattentiveness, or simple lack of information, these revelations still seem like the stuff of science fiction.
For years, consumers have had their behavior tracked when they’re online or using their smartphones, Brookman says. But I don’t think a lot of people expect their television to be watching what they do.
Kudos to Consumer Reports. If only they could have launched this initiative years ago before millions of us made the (now clearly) rash assumption that our devices and their developers were doing their due diligence in securing our information and sense of privacy…