This year, our love for "Internet of Things" continues to grow. Smart thermostats, smart routers, smart coffee pots, smart appliances, smart lights, smart TVs and more smart gadgets are becoming more numerous and less expensive. They're poised to take over the market and your home.
While smart gadgets have a lot of benefits, such as communicating with each other to make your life easier or allowing for control when you aren't at home, there's one huge minus. If you've been paying attention to Komando.com this last year, you already know that the big flaw with IoT gadgets is security.
Many smart gadgets have little to no security or poorly executed security. That gives hackers a foothold into your house and a chance to steal your information. And one gadget to keep an especially close eye on is your smart TV.
Smart TVs are nice because you can watch internet videos without needing a third-party gadget. However, they also leave the door open for malicious apps, attacks on your network, and data-gathering from manufacturers.
Earlier this week, a file dump on WikiLeaks exposed the CIA's top six spying secrets - one of which included the ability to hack Samsung smart TVs so they could be used to listen in on conversations.
This is probably the most concerning news we've heard, but it's not all of it. Back in February, we informed you about a lawsuit against Vizio, which accused the manufacturer of tracking users' watching habits and selling the data to advertisers.
Another problem is that many of these smart TVs use apps that are proprietary to a manufacturer. But Google, Apple and Roku have been working to change that. Google's Android TV, which runs Android apps from the Google Play store, is appearing on some units.
Imagine if a hacker slipped a malicious app into the Play Store that you then downloaded to your TV. While Android security is generally good, it might still be able to learn information about your network, or even take control of your TV's microphone and camera (if it has one, and many new ones do) to spy on you in your own living room.
The worst part is that manufacturers don't appear to be rushing to make their products more secure. However, one manufacturer finally looks like it's taking action.
How to protect yourself
The first solution is simple but maybe impractical - disconnect your smart appliances from the internet. To solve the problem that was brought to our attention about the CIA's spying tactics, this is practically the only solution.
The downside, of course, is that it renders gadgets useless, such as the Amazon Echo or web features of the smart TV itself. For this reason, this may not be a feasible option for all users.
So, one of the best things you can do is to keep all your smart gadgets patched with the latest firmware and secure your network's router. Click here for one thing your router needs to keep hackers out.
When it comes to the other problem of behavioral tracking for advertisers, fortunately, there are settings you can change to turn this off.
Watch this video for step-by-step instructions to adjust this setting on Samsung, LG and Vizio devices.