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Is your Internet TV susceptible to hacking?

Is your smart TV putting you at risk of cyber attacks?

In an age of security breaches and phishing, the trusty television has somehow avoided the cyber attack pitfalls of computers. All that could change, however, as a group of computer scientists are warning of a vulnerability that could see smart TVs become fair game for hackers.

Your Internet-connected TV could be vulnerable to hackers.

Researchers from the Columbia University of New York’s Network Security Lab are predicting it will be possible for a hacker to gain access to services used on a broadband-connected television using a radio frequency transmitter ─ essentially what you get in a TV remote control.

The researchers predict the hackers will use the transmitter to infect your smart TV with malicious scripts that could expose personal information such as social networking login details. It could even provide access to any shopping accounts you might have linked to a credit card, your email inbox and, heaven forbid, your Netflix account.

“The attacks described in this paper are of high significance, not only because of the very large amount of devices which are vulnerable to them, but because they exemplify the complexity of securing systems-of-systems which combine both internet and non-internet interfaces,” research scholar Yossef Oren and associate professor Angelos Keromytis said.

Researchers believe the vulnerability, which has been labelled the ‘Red Button’ attack because it relies on exploiting the Hybrid Broadcast-Broadband Television (HbbTV) standard, could be carried out using a relatively inexpensive transmitter, and 20,000 devices could be accessed in one attack.

The watcher would be unaware the attack is going in. Forbes claims an attack could be done in 12 minutes. The nature of a smart TV makes prevention almost impossible without disconnecting from the Internet or monitoring for a sudden spike in signal strength. It also means tracking down the attacker would be difficult.

Senior security researcher at Kapersky Lab in Russia commented: “When new technologies emerge, the focus tends to be on the positive benefits – how the technology will make people’s lives easier – not enough focus is placed on the risks inherent in the use of the latest technology.”

“Smart fridges, garage doors, car entertainment systems and electricity meters are all examples of new technology that all benefit from Internet connectivity, but the extension of technology in this way also brings the possibility of more cyber-attacks,” he added.

Before driving to a pier and throwing your television into the ocean you should know these are predictions and that nothing connected to the internet is ever completely safe. 

-Ben Griffin

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