Update: Read a more recent post here: Do Not Worry About Your Smart TV Getting a Virus. Really.
A smart TV, sometimes referred to as connected TV or hybrid TV, describes a trend of integration of the Internet and Web 2.0 features into television sets and set-top boxes, as well as the technological convergence between computers and these television sets/set-top boxes (Wikipedia). According to the definition, it is technically possible for your smart TV to get a virus. But is it a potential threat in the future or there is a chance it can get infected today?
How realistic is it?
I know what you are thinking. Yes, my smart TV is running an operating system and is connected to the internet, but all TV apps come preinstalled or can be installed through a legitimate source. For somebody to get to the TV, they would not only have to find a way to run malicious code on it, but also breach the network the TV is connected to.
Let’s assume for now that your neighbor is a bored knowledgeable guy who is willing to go through with this. Without any antivirus software and firewall available, do we have any evidence that it can be done?
It probably didn’t make it to breaking news, but there is evidence that smart TV is vulnerable to attacks. Some bugs very discovered accidently, some successful attempts to run malicious code to get unauthorized access were documented on video. There is evidence that it is possible to gain root access to the device, install malicious software, access and modify configuration information for a remote control, remotely access and modify files on TV and attached USB drives, access camera and microphone (read here).
Why would anyone hack you smart TV?
With most smart TVs running Android or Linux-based operating system, smart TV attacks can very well spread rapidly. It might not be an issue right now, but with growing popularity of network attached devices, bad guys will find more and more reasons to break into your TV.
Whether you are shopping with Amazon, signing into Netflix or streaming on demand, chances are your logins and credit card information are saved on the TV. When shopping for smart TV, you thought that camera and microphone were great for Skyping with friends, but instead you made it possible for someone to watch you.
Also, if you didn’t know, hackers don’t always need a reason to mess with your device. Now, may be it is not an equal threat for everyone out there. However, this activity could be directed to target certain people or companies. Of course, it would be great if these risks could be eliminated before something bad happens, but it is usually not the way it goes.
What can be done right now?
Anticipating growing demand for an antivirus for a smart TV, some security software companies are already working with partners in digital TV field on the solution. At this moment it seems like there is only one antivirus for smart TVs available. Ocean Blue Software partnered with Sophos and developed first cloud based antimalware system “Neptune”.
Also antivirus company Avira has joined forces with digital TV testing company Labwise to work on the software that would protect against potential attacks. Obviously, we are at the stage where we are just recognizing a possible problem, but in the future we should expect for our options to expand. If you are concerned today, request Clean Pipe from your internet service provider. Let them deal with updates, scanning and cleaning of the information sent to you.