Cybersecurity expert warns ‘smart TVs’ could be targets of hackers

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DENVER -- Could a flat screen TV be opening consumers up to hackers? A new report by a major cyber security firm has at least one local expert saying it’s time people start treating their TV’s like computers.

A new report by Avast details how it hacked into a Vizio smart TV and gained access into a home network.

For consumers like Brittany Reely, who uses her Vizio Smart TV at home daily, the idea that it could be targeted by hackers never crossed her mind.

"That they can get through my network, to my laptop and everyone else’s laptop and especially if I’m working from home and they can get on through there. That’s a lot of important information,” added Reely.

But what's concerning to Reely isn't surprising at all to Denver Cyber Security firm owner Ray Hutchins.

“Smart TV’s are just another computer. It’s just another computer that is hackable,” explained Hutchins.

He said anyone who owns a Smart TV needs to be a smart consumer. “Treat it as just another device connecting into your network.”

One way Hutchins said consumers can secure TVs from hackers is to constantly run updates.

“Keep the software updated at all times because there’s always being vulnerabilities being discovered or someone causing some damage and the company is always working trying to fix it."

For anyone who doesn’t know if his or her TV runs updates automatically, Hutchins said find out by checking the user manual or calling the TV company.

Something else Hutchins said people should think about is a TV’s ability to listen for voice commands.

“If it’s just another computer and it’s connected to the network, and if it’s been hacked, and that means you could be talking to someone in China,” added Hutchins. But he said the function can be shut off in all devices when it’s not in use.

“Now that’s a little bit of hassle, I know to go back to the remote and that might the reason you got the TV in the first place for the commands, but it’s a tradeoff.”

Another possible defense is keeping separate internet lines, one for the TV and one for computers.

“If someone hacks into your appliances which is sometimes considered very ,very easy to get in there, they can’t get into your home network where you have your computer have your financial records.”

According to Avast, Vizio successfully resolved the issues and reportedly claims an update will run automatically.

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