Do You Really Need Antivirus for Your Smart TV?
If you ever heard about the Amazon Fire TV malware or the Samsung smart TV virus, you might be curious if a smart television can get a virus. Yes, it is possible, but there is much more to it than that. And does that also mean you need an antivirus for your smart TV?
The possibility of virus and malware attacks in smart TVs
Smart TVs, like any other internet-connected device, are extremely vulnerable to malware infection.
Smart TVs use the same operating systems like computers or smartphones. In most instances, that operating system (OS) is Android, WebOS, OperaOS, RokuOS, or Tizen. Operating systems enable tech companies to develop interfaces and apps that are compatible with your television. At times, though, these TV apps are susceptible to vulnerabilities and flaws.
A few years back, Consumer Reports revealed that many smart TVs have privacy flaws that expose user data to unscrupulous attackers. Samsung’s own operating system, Tizen, which is built for all of its internet-connected products, including smart TVs, was discovered in 2017 to be particularly full of security vulnerabilities.
Smart TV viruses and attacks worth mentioning
Historically, there have been instances of smart TVs being compromised by attackers. Below are some examples:
- In 2019, hackers targeted thousands of vulnerable TVs and used them to broadcast messages endorsing controversial YouTuber PewDiePie. While the attack didn’t compromise any files in these TVs, people were forced to watch PewDiePie against their will.
- In 2015, a security researcher knowingly infected an android-based television using an attack that asked for access to his home network.
- In 2016, a Twitter user detected ransomware on a 4-year-old LG television that was using the now-defunct Google TV OS. (The issue was later resolved via a factory reset).
How bad can a TV virus get?
In the unlikely event that your smart TV gets infected with a virus, the damage that transpires is different from what you’d expect from a virus on a smartphone or computer.
Although there is not much personally revealing information on your television, there may be some info that you wouldn’t wish to fall into the hands of an attacker.
Most smart TVs, for example, use a technology known as automatic content recognition (ACR), which can recognize every show you watch.
Furthermore, smart TVs linked to other internet-connected gadgets may reveal more info about you and your home as they exchange data. Thus, the more connected these gadgets are, the more crucial it is to secure them.
While an attacker is unlikely to access password or credit card information from your television, data shared with your television by another connected device may be accessible.
And given the popularity of smart speakers and assistants, which frequently push things like shopping features, it is likely that data that isn’t explicitly on your television could be intercepted.
Bigger potential for privacy invasion exists if malicious software uses your smart TV features against you. Unfortunately, whatever functionality is available to a TV developer is also available to a hacker wishing to perform something unlawful with the device. Meaning, in-built features like a television microphone may be compromised and used to spy on your conversations.
Securing your smart TV
Let’s assume your TV picks up ransomware or Trojan; what should you do? Well, there are several ways to root out viruses or malware from your device.
Scan your smart TV and attached storage devices
Nowadays, most smart TVs boast of in-built antivirus software. Well, it is signature-based and might not make a huge difference in the event of Advanced Persistent Threats; however, it is still better than nothing.
For instance, McAfee Security Software is included in all Samsung Smart TVs. In the security settings, you can run a virus scan whenever necessary.
If you don’t own a Samsung TV, you can still buy antivirus software appropriate for your TV model. Remember, all antivirus programs are not created the same. Some antivirus tools offer better, more affordable, and more suitable protection for Android-powered devices, and particularly televisions than others.
Other ways to secure your smart TV
- Refrain from plugging (virus-infected) USB sticks or portable hard drives into your television.
- Only download trusted apps. Your smart TV comes pre-installed with several select apps, but you will possibly have an option to download more. Only get apps from trusted sources.
- Update your television operating system. This will ensure you have the most up-to-date protection from your device’s manufacturer.
- In case of a ransomware or malware attack, return your TV to factory settings.
Still, wondering if you need an antivirus for your smart TV? The truth is, malware can brick your smart TV, but the effect would not be as far-reaching as to what would transpire if the same virus got into your computer.
As always, keep your OS updated, avoid dubious memory sticks, download apps from trusted sources, and perform regular scans.
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