12 On Your Side: Your TV could be watching you

12 On Your Side
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News 12 at 11 o'clock / Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- There are big screens and flat screens, but there is no screen quite like the Samsung Smart TV.

"It's kind of of like going to the movies," said April Ramos as she reclined in her chair. "You can watch Netflix on it, you can Skype, you can play some games on it."

The Samsung Smart TV is the mack daddy of televisions, which is why Ramos bought one last summer. She never considered the possibility that personal information and privacy could be at risk because of the new high-tech device sitting in her living room.

Just a few months ago, a hacking group demonstrated how someone could gain access into the Samsung Smart TVs. A hole in the Samsung Smart TV could potentially allow hackers to gain access to sensitive information through your TV. Even more scary, the hackers could gain access to the camera on your TV to watch you.

"Samsung has said they are aware of the problem and they are going to fix it," said Philip Ross with Computer Exchange.

"They could get in and pretty much view the camera 24/7 if they wanted to," he said.

Chase Woodhams, a 20-year-old engineer, has also been hacking since he was 13 years old.

"This is the first step right here. I would actually have to crack her wireless password," he showed us on his laptop.

Woodhams told us anything that connects to the Internet can be hacked, including your smart TV.

"Do you know if your Internet password and all of that is pretty protected?" News 12's Elizabeth Owens asked Ramos.

"Oh yes, very protected," Ramos answered.

We asked Woodhams if he could hack into her Internet. It only took him 15 minutes to access it. He did not go any further.

"Whether it's worth my time? Probably not. Not unless you have $100,000 in your account and I know your account information is going to be on there," he said.

It may not be worth his time as a hacker to break into her smart TV, but he says there others who would benefit from watching her through her television.

"Like what you're eating while you're watching TV, even what furniture you have in your house, they could access your Web cam and look at the types of furniture you have," he said.

Data that could be used for advertising purposes.

"It's kind of creepy," Ramos said.

However, she may have unknowingly given the green light for spying with just a click of her remote.

"Anytime you install an app or a new piece of software on your computer, you always have to sign a terms and agreement," Woodhams said.

Samsung's Terms and Agreement states:
"... Please remember that there is always some risk in transmitting information electronically prior to our collection. The personal information we collect is stored within databases that we control."

"It makes me wonder should I be with my clothes on at all times?" Ramos said half-jokingly.

Samsung says it's working on a patch to fix the issue. The company did not respond to a request for more information from WRDW.

Here are some ways to protect your privacy on a smart TV:

  • Don't plug in anything that has sensitive information.
  • Make sure to have a password on your wireless access point.
  • Use a WPA2 encryption password over WEP or WAP.
  • A password should be over eight characters and the best practice is to just pick two random words and put them together.
  • Don't put anything into or on your TV or computer you're not willing to let others see.

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