How to outsmart your smart TV
Let me tell you a secret: your smart TV may be spying on you right now! Back in the day, television sets were only supposed to display pictures, instead of taking pictures of us and whatever we are watching, and then send them who knows where.
Some manufacturers have coded those "features" on purpose, while others have simply made these exploits possible, because they have built their products utilizing poor security practices. Here's a real-life example: some smart TVs can intercept and analyze chunks of digital data from the program that you are watching, and thus determine the channel name, the current date and time, and whether it's live content or not.
Then, this data is connected to your IP address, the same Internet address that's used by your computer, tablet and smart phone.
There are several services that can easily link IP addresses to companies and/or individuals, allowing anyone who has access to that data to determine your age, profession, income level, and so on.
So, you shouldn't be surprised to see that you are receiving lots of highly targeted ads wherever you go, just because you like a particular TV show.
Things can get much more serious when this type of data falls into the cybercriminals' hands, though. And sadly, this happens quite often, because most TVs send the data to their makers without encrypting it. You'd think that major electronics manufacturers know a little bit more about security, right?
Not only that, but most smart TVs incorporate microphones and cameras these days, making it possible for attackers to spy on you. It is really creepy, but a hacker may be watching you right now!
So, how can you outsmart your smart TV? The key idea, and the only method that is guaranteed to work, is to keep it disconnected from the Internet. I know, you want to see those nice YouTube video clips on your large screen TV! If this is the case, you should purchase a Google Chromecast or a product which offers similar features, but doesn't share that much information about you with third parties. I guarantee that your TV will become much smarter this way, and your personal data will remain... personal.
If you've got the TV connected to the web through a LAN cable, it's time to pull the plug. And if you've got it connected to your Wi-Fi network, tell it to "forget" that network for good. If this isn't possible (yeah, some modern TVs are that "smart") you've got two options:
1. Reset the TV to its default settings.
2. Change the password of your Wi-Fi network. However, if you go this route, you will have to use the new password for all the other devices that are connected to your wireless network.
If you simply can't live without having your TV connected to the Internet, you should try to disable its spying "features". But don't assume that you will find them all in the "spying" section of the TV setup menu! Their makers have cleverly disguised them as "interactivity features", "watching info", and so on. So, be sure to read the TV manual and disable them all.
Still, you should be aware of the fact that this won't fix the problems for good. New TV O.S. updates may instruct your device to send personal data to its manufacturers once again. Your TV may also be hacked by a person who is interested in hearing and seeing what you are doing. So, next time you want to buy a smart TV, ensure that it is a really dumb one.