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FBI issues dire warning about smart TVs and hackers

If you follow us at, you already know some of the dangers of having Internet of Things (IoT) appliances in your home. Those are products that connect to the internet like smart lightbulbs, smart refrigerators and smart doorbells.

One problem with things like virtual assistants, including Google Home or your Amazon Alexa-enabled Echo, is they’re always listening. Tap or click here to learn how to stop Alexa from listening to your conversations.

Now, the FBI has issued a warning about smart TVs and hackers. Keep reading to find out what the problem is and how to protect your family.

Your TV could actually be watching you

If you’ve purchased a TV in the past couple of years, there’s a great chance it’s a smart TV. That means it connects to the internet and you can use it to watch streaming services and apps.

Many of the newer models even have microphones and cameras built in. Microphones can be used to control the TV hands-free. Want to change the channel or adjust the volume? No problem. Just say the command and your smart TV will comply.

Related: Your smart TV tracks your viewing habits. Here’s how to opt out.

Smart TVs that have built-in cameras can be used for things like facial recognition, so it knows who is watching and can suggest programming the viewer may like. They can also be used to video chat with family and friends who live across the country.

Here is where the problem lies. TV manufacturers and app developers could potentially listen in and see what you’re doing through the built-in microphones and cameras. We told you earlier this year how TV makers were spying on their customers. Tap or click here to find out how.

Now, the risks are even worse. According to the FBI, unsecured smart TVs are at risk of being hacked by cybercriminals.

The FBI recently stated your smart TV could be a gateway for hackers to come into your home. They may not be able to access your locked-down computer directly, but it’s possible an unsecured smart TV could give them a simple backdoor through your router.

They can also take control of your unsecured smart TV. Low-risk threats include changing channels, adjusting the TV’s volume and showing kids inappropriate videos. Worst-case scenarios include turning your bedroom TV’s camera and mic into a stalking spying device. Yikes!

There are some simple ways to keep this from happening. Keep reading to find out how.

How to keep your smart TV safe from hackers

The FBI said TVs and technology are a big part of our lives and they are not going away any time soon. Here are some suggestions it gave to protect your family:

  • Know exactly what features your TV has and how to control those features. Do a basic internet search with your model number and the words “microphone,” “camera” and “privacy.”
  • Don’t depend on the default security settings. Change passwords if you can — and know how to turn off the microphones, cameras and collection of personal information if possible. If you can’t turn them off, consider whether you are willing to take the risk of buying that model or using that service.
  • If you can’t turn off a camera but want to, a simple piece of black tape over the camera lens is a basic option.
  • Check the manufacturer’s ability to update your device with security patches. Can they do this? Have they done it in the past?
  • Check the privacy policy for the TV manufacturer and the streaming services you use. Confirm what data they collect, how they store that data and what they do with it.

If you think you’ve been the victim of cyber fraud, always report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at or call your local FBI office.

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