Protect your Smart TV from security threats

Authored by Gabrielle Ladouceur Despins, writer at WeLiveSecurity-ESET

The final stretch of 2018 approaches. For parents of young children, this means that lunch boxes and homework are back. It is also the season, for many of us, when trees start to change color before the arrival of the cold season. It is also the time when entertainment companies try to entice viewers back to the sofa to discover what new treats they have in store.Your couch is ready, you’ve possibly stocked up on popcorn, and maybe you’ve invited friends to celebrate the return of your favorite show. But have you thought about securing your connected TV (Smart TV)?

Smart TV, like all connected devices, can present various types of threats, including the risk of having your conversation recorded and using security vulnerabilities that can allow attackers to take control of your device.

We have published several articles in the past on the security of connected devices. In the meantime, here are some steps you can take to use your Smart TV more safely:

1 – Protect your router credentials
To take advantage of the technology of connected televisions, the use of the router is a very popular avenue, due to its practicality and the flexibility it offers. This device allows you to connect several devices to your network, without using a large number of cables, which would reduce the versatility of IoT devices.

However, a router that hasn’t yet been secured could put your Smart TV and your entire network at risk. For example, a Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack could allow a criminal to install malware on your Smart TV. To achieve this, the cybercriminal needs to have access to your network. Access to your network – which the attacker will have, if s/he has your Wi-Fi , or has otherwise hacked into your router.

To ensure the security of your router, the admin username, along with the provided password should be changed, if you haven’t already done so! It really is the first step you should take. Make sure you use a strong and unique username and password.

In order to prevent access to your network without your consent, you should also make sure to disable any features you do not use, such as any features you are not using that could facilitate access to your network without your consent.

Also, always make sure to update your router, if and when such an update is available, as well as all your connected devices, to be protected against newly discovered and fixed vulnerabilities. If you need to purchase a new device, you should look for a device that complies with and supports the new WPA3 protocol.

You will find several other tips in this blog article.

2- Sort your networks and devices
Many devices are probably linked to your router. A good practice for securing your home network is to list devices and create separate networks with custom permissions to better protect the most sensitive devices.

Viewing the list of devices will allow you to turn off those you do not use or no longer use. This step will make it easier to detect an intrusion attempt, since you will already be familiar with the names of devices using your network.

The creation of a separate network offers other advantages. For example, you may decide to separate sensitive devices such as surveillance cameras, storage devices or home automation devices from the rest of your connected devices, including your Smart TV, to avoid the risk of breaches. You can also choose to share only certain devices with your guests at home.

3- Configure your Smart TV
Just like all your connected devices – and your router – your Smart TV must be properly configured to ensure security and functionality. If the features vary from device to device, check the manual.

First, make sure you configure the privacy settings and information you allow your provider to collect – or share with third parties. Several Smart TV vendors have found themselves in the spotlight for collecting a great deal of information from their customers – including voice recordings.  To prevent this, and other possible violations, make sure you configure your router’s settings for both privacy and the information you allow your provider to collect – or share with third parties.

If your Smart TV also includes a camera, remember that it too can put your privacy at stake. Cybersecurity researchers have identified attacks where Smart TV cameras were accessed via the internet. Once again, caution should be exercised. Turn off the camera when not in use. You can even place a piece of tape on the lens, to prevent anyone from getting in and watching you even when your Smart TV is off.

Remember also that any enabled features may pose a risk. Indeed, uncorrected loopholes in them can serve as an opening through which cybercriminals can sneak in. So remember to disable the features you are not using. Even if it means reactivating them in the future, if you wish to use them.

Also think about adjusting the configuration of protection measures offered by the provider, updates – we will come back to this below – and, if necessary, parental control! Most of today’s devices are equipped with user-friendly graphical interfaces, so it only takes a few minutes to properly protect you.

4- Install the latest updates
Criminals are always looking for new vulnerabilities that they can use to infiltrate their victim’s device, network or computer. A vulnerability is an exploitable weakness in an application that makes it possible to perform an unwanted or wrong action that cybercriminals can use to attack your devices.

Connected devices, like your Smart TV, have firmware. Like all computer systems, Smart TV firmware must be regularly updated so that you have all the patches in place, especially to avoid bugs and vulnerabilities.

Unlike your computer’s operating system or smartphone, most Internet of Things (IoT) devices do not update firmware automatically. However, many IoT devices offer you the option to put the firmware directly into your console, which makes your task easier.

If not, you must download and install the updates yourself. In both cases, you then have to install the updates if applicable.

5- Use a complete security solution
Like your computer or mobile phone, your smart devices can be infected with malware or other threats created by cybercriminals. You should therefore use a complete security solution from a trusted provider to protect these devices as well.

There are several options, including ESET Smart TV security available on Google Play Store, that offers you real-time protection against viruses and ransomware, in addition to automated virus database updates. Test some of these products as they usually offer you a trial period. When you find the one that suits your needs we strongly suggest you secure your Smart TV with it.

6- Download applications with caution
We often discuss this issue of malicious applications and potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) on WeLiveSecurity. And with good reason! Malware and PUAs are a major problem: in 2017 Google removed approximately 2000 applications per day that violated its policies.

Banking Trojans, fake security applicationspaying applications pretending to be legitimate free applications, or malicious software disguised as games or legitimate applications — cybercriminals have numerous tactics up their sleeves. Malicious applications can also affect your Smart TV so, as with any other device, you should take special care with the applications you download to it.

The first advice is of course to always download applications directly from the Google Play store or the App Store. Always check the name of the software author, the number of installations and other users’ evaluations before downloading an application. If in doubt, wait before installing an application that you think might be questionable.

7- Use streaming with caution
Now that your devices themselves are secure, remember that your web browsing is also a preferred entry point for cybercriminals.

Attackers do use streaming sites to deliver various types of threats, ranging from social engineering campaigns to malicious code downloads, cryptojacking and potentially unwanted Applications (PUAs).

Choose the streaming sites you consult with caution.  Actively search for and use reliable and legitimate websites for online viewing.

Now that you have implemented these measures to improve the security of your Smart TV, you can sit back and enjoy the upcoming season safely. However, remember that IT security is not limited to individual actions taken on a specific date. Keeping your Smart TV and connected devices safe requires continuous effort and monitoring.

Be sure to implement these security measures and review your cyber security practices in IoT regularly. This way, you can not only enjoy the next season of your favorite shows but can continue to use all your connected devices safely, including in coming seasons!