Smart TVs top many holiday wish lists. But like any Internet-connected device, they can be a convenient portal for hackers, as the FBI’s Portland, Oregon field office pointed out in a warning to consumers last week.

“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 agency said.

“Hackers can also take control of your unsecured TV. At the low end of the risk spectrum, they can change channels, play with the volume and show your kids inappropriate videos. In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you.”

Many smart TVs are equipped with cameras and microphones, which allow users to control them from the comfort of the couch. Those features also allow TV makers such as Samsung, Roku and Vizio to track what you’re up to and relay it to advertising partners, whether you’re in a streaming app or browsing the Web or kicking it old-school with a DVD.

Automatic content recognition, in which the TV monitors itself and broadcasts it back to the TV maker as often as once a second, has become an industry standard; it’s part of why the cost of TVs has fallen so much.

Although watching TV is protected as a private activity under U.S. law, companies aren’t always transparent with customers about when they’re being tracked. The Federal Trade Commission fined Vizio $2.2 million in 2017 for not being forward with consumers about tracking software and ordered the rest of the industry to make it so that customers had to opt into tracking, but many of these agreements are still buried in fine print.

Americans spend an average of 3½ hours a day in front of the TV, according to eMarketer, a hefty chunk of time for an unwanted party to exploit. These kinds of attacks aren’t common, but they’re not impossible either, though the FBI did not include any statistics in its warning. A 2018 Consumer Reports investigation found that millions of popular smart TVs have hosts of security vulnerabilities that a relatively unskilled hacker could take advantage of. And this year at Defcon, the famed hacker conference, security researchers showed how smart TVs could be commandeered for darker purposes.

The FBI offered some suggestions for locking down your smart TV. To start, the agency suggests doing a basic search on your TV model and its features, using words like “microphone,” “camera” and “privacy.” It also urged users not to depend on default security settings and to read privacy policies carefully.

Know how to turn off the microphones, cameras, and collection of personal information if possible,” the FBI recommended. “If you can’t turn them off, consider whether you are willing to take the risk of buying that model or using that service.”

Source: (Posted December 3rd, 2019)

Securing Smart TVs


If you are reading this guide, you are about to embark on a process that will help your organization harness the potential of technology to deliver your mission and best serve your community. Proactively planning for technology is about more than replacing old computers (although that might be part of your plan!). This process will help your organization fundamentally shift the way you approach technology investments toward greater mission achievement and community impact. It will identify opportunities for technology to help you control costs, reduce risk, raise funds, and empower staff.

Strategic technology planning – much like any strategic planning process – is a comprehensive look at the current state and the desired future state for your organization. If you just need some new computers, this may not be the right process. But if you are ready to treat technology as a mission-critical investment that can accelerate your organization’s impact, you are in the right place! Your nonprofit has much to gain from appropriately integrating technology into your operations, communications, fundraising, and service delivery. This guide offers step-by-step support to help you lead your organization through technology planning, resulting in a roadmap to smart technology use.


This guide has been produced through the generous support of the Rasmuson Foundation, a private foundation that works as a catalyst to promote a better life for Alaskans. Learn more at It was written and edited by Lindsay Bealko of Toolkit Consulting, who helps mission-minded organizations design creative communications, engaging education, and powerful programs. Learn more at

Special thanks to Orion Matthews and Jeremiah Dunham of DesignPT for their substantial contributions to and reviews of this guide to make it as useful as possible to nonprofit organizations who are ready to harness the strategic potential of technology. Learn more and request help with your strategic technology plan at

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