Smart TVs become new path for hackers to attack

Roku responds to Consumer Reports device-hacking study; shares higher

This happens because many smart TVs have a programming interface, called an API, that lets you use for smartphone or tablet as a remote control over wifi.

In an extensive investigation into the security of connected viewing devices and user privacy policies, top manufacturers were found wanting, according to the influential consumer advocate.

During its research, Consumer Reports, in conjunction with privacy-enhancing software developer Disconnect, found that TCL's vulnerability - which also applies to Roku TVs from Insignia, Philips, Sharp and more - stemmed from an unsecured remote control API, which is enabled by default on all of these TVs.

Roku (ROKU +6.5%) says Consumer Reports "got it wrong" with a study suggesting smart products including Roku-powered TVs are vulnerable to easy hacking.

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.




The consumer organization says it was able to break into a TCL/Roku set using a remote-use feature that Roku developed. 'This means that even extremely unsophisticated hackers can take control of Rokus. "It's less of a locked door and more of a see-through curtain next to a neon 'We're open!' sign".

"This is a mischaracterization of a feature", says Roku's Gary Ellison.

Do you have a smart TV? At the same time, she stresses that this can cause limited damage - "there is no security risk to a customer's account or to the Roku platform". When approached regarding the vulnerability, Samsung said that they are evaluating the issue, and that "We appreciate Consumer Reports' alerting us to their potential concern". That feature can be combined with other information and used to target advertising on your TV and mobile phone.

The site also advises users who're concerned about data gathering methods to turn off the set's Wi-Fi, or restore the TV to factory settings and take a closer look at the privacy policies. However, the process by which people agree is often murky, Consumer Reports says, and it often leads to less functionality. Last February, Vizio was fined for collecting and selling data of this sort without the permission of its users.

You can read the full report - as well as tips on how to protect your security and privacy - at this link.

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