Smart TVs with Webcams Vulnerable to Online Peeping Toms

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

If your smart TV has a webcam built into it, hackers can access it over the Internet, just like webcams on laptops.

A “smart TV” by definition is a television set where one can access the Internet, watch content online via streaming services such as Netflix, or use various other applications that are usually found on computers or smartphones, such as Skype. Ownership of them is on the rise – in 2014, around 42 million households in America had one. By 2018, this is predicted to increase to around 70% of all US households. Heather Way, a Senior Analyst at Parks Associates, noted that “this platform… is forever changing the concept of television.”

This improved interactivity, along with better On Demand services, streamlines the activity for the viewer.

However, when you introduce the Internet into an area that has previously been offline, you make that item vulnerable to outside attacks. Just as wireless key fobs are susceptible to infiltration via remote hacking devices, as proved by a group of German researchers, criminals and other malicious forces can gain access to your smart TVs too and use them to their advantage.

Laura Higgins, founder of the Revenge Porn Helpline, said that she dealt with one couple who were “filmed making love in their living room through their smart TV.” Friends later saw the footage on a website and told them.

“The victims had no idea it was there,” said Higgins. “They had not made any personal videos and no names were attached to the footage … but they could recognise their living room and from the angle the video was taken they worked out it must have been filmed … from their smart TV.”

When photos are uploaded to sites, it is extremely difficult for the victims to get them taken down. Infringement of copyright can be used to persuade some websites to take stolen images down, but due to how the legislation surrounding copyright is written, those images must have been taken by the victim themselves. Higgins told the Daily Mail that “it very much depends on the site. Some sites can be helpful because they do not want to be caught up in anything illegal.”

Of course, victims can only take action if they actually know where the images are online. In many cases, the victims’ names are attached to the images, but other times the uploader tags them with a nickname instead, in order to stop the victim from finding them. Attackers have even sent messages challenging the victims to track all of the photos down. Unfortunately for those who have sensitive pictures uploaded to pornographic sites, once out there, even the perpetrators lose control of them. They are reproduced over and over, with no real possibility of them ever being erased.

Jack Hadfield is a student at Warwick University and a regular contributor to Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter here: @ToryBastard_.


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