Consumer Reports finds some smart TVs vulnerable to hackers

Hackers able to control remotely, Consumer Reports says

By Marilyn Moritz - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Could your TV be controlled by hackers? A new investigation by Consumer Reports found millions of smart TVs don't do enough to protect your security.

Consumer Reports found millions of smart TVs from major manufacturers can be controlled by hackers exploiting easy-to-find security vulnerabilities. The problems affect Samsung televisions, along with TV models made by TCL and other brands that use the Roku TV platform.

"While evaluating smart TVs for data privacy and security, we came across a vulnerability in some smart TVs that can be exploited by a hacker who could write code to control the TV without the user’s permission," said Maria Rerecich, with Consumer Reports' electronics testing.

Consumer Reports was able to demonstrate how a hacker thousands of miles away could potentially take over your TV and change channels, play offensive content or turn the volume up to full-blast.  

"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 Wi-Fi," Rerecich said. "In some cases, Consumer Reports found that this API was not properly secured, and that could let a hacker control your TV."

This investigation marks Consumer Reports' first tests using the Digital Standard, which was developed to evaluate the privacy and security of products and services.

When Consumer Reports reached out to Samsung and Roku, officials with both companies said they take privacy and security seriously. TCL officials referred to Roku's response.

Samsung officials responded that the company would update its API "as soon as technically feasible."

A Roku official said Consumer Reports got it wrong.

"There is no security risk to our customers' accounts or the Roku platform with the use of this API," Gary Ellison, vice president of trust engineering, wrote in a blog.

Additionally, he wrote that consumers can turn off the feature on their Roku player or TV.

To find out more about what you can do to protect your personal privacy and limit the amount of data your smart TV is collecting about you, visit Consumer for instructions specific to your TV.

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