The FBI just issued a warning about the risks of owning a smart TV — here are its suggestions for protecting your privacy

Aaron Holmes
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  • The FBI has issued a warning to smart TV buyers highlighting the risks associated with such devices.
  • Smart TVs, which connect to the internet to offer online apps and services, can be exploited by hackers.
  • The devices also pose surveillance risks, according to the FBI warning.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

If you own a smart TV — or recently purchased one for the holidays — it's time to acquaint yourself with the risks associated with the devices, according to a new warning issued by the FBI.

Smart TVs connect to the internet, allowing users to access online apps, much like streaming services. And because they're internet-enabled, they can make users vulnerable to surveillance and attacks from bad actors, according to the FBI warning.

"Beyond the risk that your TV manufacturer and app developers may be listening and watching you, that television can also be a gateway for hackers to come into your home," Beth Anne Steele, an agent in FBI's Portland bureau, wrote in the warning.

"A bad cyber actor may not be able to access your locked-down computer directly, but it is possible that your unsecured TV can give him or her an easy way in the backdoor through your router," she added.

Hackers have also proven that it's possible to take control of smart devices in people's homes. An investigation by Consumer Reports last year found that Samsung and Roku smart TVs are vulnerable to hacking.

"In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV's camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you," Steele wrote.

Here are the steps that the FBI recommends all smart TV owners take to protect their privacy:

1. Do some research on what model smart TV you own and its features. The FBI recommends doing an internet search with your model number, along with the words "microphone," "camera," and "privacy."

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2. Check your smart TV's settings and see if it's possible to turn off any data collection on the device. Also, change your password.

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3. Some, but not all, smart TVs have microphones and cameras, which the FBI suggests shutting off in your device's settings. If it's not possible to turn off the camera, put a strip of opaque tape over the TV's camera lens.

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4. Check whether the TV manufacturer has issued any security patches for the device, and if so, make sure they're installed.

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5. Read the manufacturer's privacy policy and make sure you understand what data is being collected, and what the company does with it.

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6. The FBI has asked anyone who believes they're a victim of cyber fraud to report it to their Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center can be found online here.