Millions of smart TVs and streaming devices can be easily hacked

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Millions of smart TVs can be easily hacked, according to a report by a leading consumer website.

A study carried out by Consumer Reports found that some TVs are prone to hackers, who can easily gain access to the TVs, play graphic content and even change the channel and volume.

They do this over the web from thousands of miles away, the report claimed.

Consumer Reports detailed the the brands whose smart TVs were most at risk, including those from Samsung, TCL, Sony, LG, HiSense, Hitachi, Philips and Sharp.

The prevalence of smart technology means that most TVs now offer internet connectivity, the report found.

While smart TVs have change how we consume television and bring us added convenience, that convenience comes at a cost, Consumer Reports warned.

The report said that TVs from Samsung and LG run their own software, whereas the likes of Sony and Sharp use software from third parties – including Google.

For example, the Sony model featured in the study used Android TV as its platform.

“Our security testing focused on whether basic security practices were being followed in the design of each television’s software,” Consumer Reports said.

They said that TVs from Samsung and TCL were the least secure.

“They allowed researchers to pump the volume from a whisper to blaring levels, rapidly cycle through channels, open disturbing YouTube content or kick the TV off the WiFi network”, the report said.

“To a television viewer who didn’t know what was happening, it might feel creepy, as though an intruder were lurking nearby or spying on you through the set.”

The report also criticised the Roku platform which is used in TVs from TCL, Hitachi, Philips, HiSense and Sharp, as well as on its own streaming devices.

The report described the Roku platform as “totally unsecured” and that “even extremely unsophisticated hackers can take control of Rokus”.

“It’s less of a locked door and more of a see-through curtain next to a neon “We’re open!” sign.”

“There is no security risk to our customers’ accounts or the Roku platform with use of this API [application programming interface],” contradicting the report.

The report also said that hackers could easily access Samsung smart TVs.

“Samsung smart TVs attempt to ensure that only authorized applications can control the television.

“Unfortunately, the mechanism they use to ensure that applications have previously been authorized is flawed.

“It’s as though once you unlocked your door, the door would never lock again.”

In response, Samsung said: “We appreciate Consumer Reports’ alerting us to their potential concern” and were looking into the claims.

Consumer reports also said that a Sony TV running Google’s Android TV was the most invasive when it came to the privacy of users.

It added that if users did not agree to Google’s privacy policy, they were not able to use some of the TV’s most basic features.

“The Sony television was the only one that required you to agree to a privacy policy and terms of service to complete the setup of the TV.

“Consumers have to click yes to Google agreements, even if they don’t plan to connect to the internet. That could be a frustrating thing to discover only after you’d bought the big-screen TV at the store, lugged it home, and maybe mounted it to the wall.”

In response Sony said: “If a customer has any concerns about sharing information with Google/Android [they]need not connect their smart TV to the Internet or to Android servers to use the device as a television.”

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