Our computers have antivirus software, and so do phones and tablets. Those aside, it’s unlikely that any other device handles as much data as your TV. So you might be wonder since smart TVs access the internet, they run a risk of getting viruses.
Well, you’ll have to read through this guide, to find out if a smart TV can get infected with a virus or any malware, and if smart TVs can be infected, what you can do to prevent them from getting infected. So you should read through this guide for all the answers to your question.
Smart TVs have become a favorite entertainment device as prices have decreased and quality has increased. Smart TVs offer the convenience of a one-stop-shop for your streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Chromecast, Amazon Prime, and more.
What is a smart TV
Any TV that can be connected to the internet is a smart TV. A user can stream media services and run apps, browse the internet, access internet music channels, shop online, and access on-demand video services. Some smart TVs include voice-recognition virtual assistant services, like Amazon’s Alexa, to help switch channels, modulate volume, and search programs.
Over the years, smart TVs have gained popularity. Users can easily navigate between streaming services and social media on their TV, the same as they would on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. With the addition of voice commands, using these devices has become easier and more convenient. Smart TVs work well for gaming services, too.
Picture quality and image sharpness are much better on a smart TV than on a regular TV. Some newer models of smart TVs have 4K Ultra HD content that provides high-quality picture and sound.
Smart TV brands
Sony: The company has a range of Android TVs that focus on picture and sound quality. It uses 4K HDR that makes gaming with PlayStation consoles a great experience. Newer models also have Chromecast and Google Assistant built-in, increasing its convenience.
Samsung: Most Samsung smart TVs come with HDR Plus, which allows for sharper images and more realistic colors. Its Ultra Slim Array fine-tunes the backlight to enhance the deepness of the blacks and the brightness of the whites, giving the user a stunning sensation of contrast. Newer Samsung models come with Bixby Voice, a virtual assistant that helps find streaming and live TV shows with a Universal Guide, one remote, and voice assistance.
LG: Some of LG’s latest smart TVs come with Google Assistant built-in, allowing the user to stream their favorite programs and control compatible smart home devices, such as changing light settings, adjusting room temperatures, and more.
Why the cause for concern?
Yes, your TV is connected to the internet, but there’s no real evidence to suggest that they are vulnerable to virus and malware attacks. That didn’t stop Samsung from stoking some concern when it released a tweet recommending its TV owners regularly run virus scans.
For some reason, the tweet focused solely on its high-end QLED range, but all its TVs run the same Tizen operating system so it’s fair to assume any vulnerabilities would be shared by its entire line-up.
Can a smart TV get a virus?
Like any internet-connected device, smart TVs are absolutely vulnerable to be infected with malware. “Smart TVs are in essence small computers, and hence also increasingly exposed to attacks from the Internet like any other connected device,” Candid Wueest, Principal Threat Researcher at cybersecurity firm Symantec tells Mic.
Additionally, smart TVs run on operating systems the same way a computer or smartphone does. In most cases, that OS is WebOS or Android. They enable companies to develop apps and interfaces that allow you to interact with them on the TV, but they also have flaws and vulnerabilities.
Are there viruses for TV?
There are malware and other types of malicious software written and designed to attack flaws in smart TVs, but they aren’t that common. Ken Munro, a security expert at Pen Test Partners, told the BBC that “there is a tiny number of known malware that might attack a TV” and said the possibility of an infection is pretty small for most users.
Likewise, Wueest of Symantec says that “malware is still rare on smart TVs” Of course, a small chance isn’t no chance, which means there is a potential threat out there, no matter how small. As Wueest warns, “Although the number of attacks targeting smart TVs is smaller compared to the number of traditional computer viruses, we see it’s growing with the number of devices being sold.”
What are some risks associated with smart TVs?
In theory, a smart TV is a highly-evolved device that gives a user a lot of options to enjoy streaming, browsing, and gaming. But there may also be risks you want to consider before deciding to bring one into your living room.
Take privacy, for instance. An internet-connected, voice-enabled TV has the capability to track what you are searching and watching. With this information, they can serve ads catered to your way of life. Most smart TVs come with the option for you to turn off such tracking, but it may not be the default setting. It’s smart to check the fine print before turning on or turning off features on your smart TV.
As with many internet-connected devices, smart TVs can also be hacked. Smart TV webcams could be hacked for spying, or malware can move from device to device through your router.
What are some ways a smart tv can be hacked?
Webcam hacking is nothing new, but it has been getting more mainstream attention. Cassidy Wolf, a Miss Teen USA contestant, was targeted by hackers for blackmail after they used remote administration software to take photos of her in her bedroom, through her own computer. That problem could now be headed to your living room TV.
The threat isn’t just being seen in your unmentionables. A hacker could just as easily use the webcam on your television to find out whether you have anything worth stealing in your home or when you are most likely to be gone for long periods.
Other instances have involved hackers adjusting the volume remotely, rapidly cycling through channels, opening disturbing or explicit content, and accessing the connected smart TV’s built-in browser to download malicious code.
- The tracking problem
Even if you don’t have a webcam on your television, it’s important to understand that the company providing you with content could likely be tracking your browsing history and what you are watching. Much of that tracking is, ostensibly, in the name of serving you with advertising more attuned to your interests, but you should consider whether you’re comfortable with that practice.
- Outdated software
Smart TV manufacturers try their best to keep all software up to date, but in the rush to get new devices to market, security may be an afterthought. As technology changes rapidly, your 3-year-old smart TV may start looking ancient soon.
This is where a secure router can play an important role, since it is essentially the entry point of the internet into your home, and the router can help provide some protection at that entry point.
Should you scan for viruses?
Samsung partners with McAfee and has a virus scanner built-in, so you can run a scan whenever you like. Antivirus apps are available from the Google Play Store on Sony TVs, so you’re free to scan there too.
But, you don’t really need to.
LG and Panasonic TVs don’t have many options for scanning, but the closed operating system, which Samsung has too, means a dicey app would need to slip through their security net and launch on the app store to cause any problems. With Sony TVs, we’d recommend simply sticking with the Google Play Store for your apps.
The only situation where we’d recommend running a virus scan is if you are trying to install something from a USB hard drive. You can scan the files on your computer if your TV doesn’t have the capabilities. It’s encouraging to see manufacturers take security seriously and adding antivirus, but it’s not without its issues.
Having manual scans puts responsibility in the hands of the user and potentially some of the blame. With so many devices going online, a world where your light bulbs, fridge, washing machine, TV, laptop, smartphone, thermostat, doorbell, and more need regular manual virus scans is a problematic one.
How to avoid smart TV privacy risks
What’s the simplest way to make sure that your smart TV isn’t spying on you? Disconnect it from your home network. But if you want access to some of the perks of smart technology, consider avoiding TVs with built-in webcams. If you already have a TV with a webcam, go for the low-tech, but effective way of blocking it: a sticky note covering the lens, except for when you’re using it.
It’s encouraging to see manufacturers take security seriously and adding antivirus, but it’s not without its issues. Having manual scans puts responsibility in the hands of the user and potentially some of the blame. With so many devices going online, a world where your light bulbs, fridge, washing machine, TV, laptop, smartphone, thermostat, doorbell, and more need regular manual virus scans is a problematic one.