Q&A: How Can I Stop My TV Spying On Me?

Tyler Durden's picture

Following today's publication, by WikiLeaks, of documents exposing the CIA's secret hacking program - describing tools that can turn a world of increasingly networked, camera- and microphone-equipped devices into eavesdroppers, AP's Frank Bajak answers the public's biggest questions. Bajak warns consumers, there's "not much you can do if you don't want to sacrifice the benefits of the device," but offers a silver-lining of sorts for the average joe, the "tools that appear to be targeted at specific people's (devices).. and many intrusion tools are for delivery via 'removable device'."

Smart televisions and automobiles now have on-board computers and microphones, joining the ubiquitous smartphones, laptops and tablets that have had microphones and cameras as standard equipment for a decade. That the CIA has created tools to turn them into listening posts surprises no one in the security community.

Q: HOW WORRIED SHOULD CONSUMERS BE?

A: The intrusion tools highlighted by the leak do not appear to be instruments of mass surveillance. So, it's not as if everyone's TV or high-tech vehicle is at risk.

 

"It's unsurprising, and also somewhat reassuring, that these are tools that appear to be targeted at specific people's (devices) by compromising the software on them — as opposed to tools that decrypt the encrypted traffic over the internet," said Matt Blaze, a University of Pennsylvania computer scientist.

 

The exploits appear to emphasize targeted attacks, such as collecting keystrokes or silently activating a Samsung TV's microphone while the set is turned off. In fact, many of the intrusion tools described in the documents are for delivery via "removable device."

Q: WHAT CAN BE DONE TO PREVENT A COMPROMISED INTERNET-CONNECTED DEVICE FROM COMMUNICATING WITH SPIES?

A: Not much if you don't want to sacrifice the benefits of the device.

 

"Anything that is voice-activated or that has voice- and internet-connected functionality is susceptible to these types of attacks," said Robert M. Lee, a former U.S. cyberwar operations officer and CEO of the cybersecurity company Dragos.

 

That includes smart TVs and voice-controlled information devices like the Amazon Echo, which can read news, play music, close the garage door and turn up the thermostat. An Amazon Echo was enlisted as a potential witness in an Arkansas murder case.

 

To ensure a connected device can't spy on you, unplug it from the grid and the internet and remove the batteries, if that's possible. Or perhaps don't buy it, especially if you don't especially require the networked features and the manufacturer hasn't proven careful on security.

 

Security experts have found flaws in devices — like WiFi-enabled dolls — with embedded microphones and cameras.

Q: I USE WHATSAPP AND SIGNAL FOR VOICE AND TEXT COMMUNICATION BECAUSE OF THEIR STRONG ENCRYPTION. CAN THE EXPLOITS DESCRIBED IN THE WIKILEAKS DOCUMENTS BREAK THEM?

A: No. But exploits designed to infiltrate the operating system on your Android smartphone, iPhone, iPad or Windows-based computer can read your messages or listen in on conversations on the compromised device itself, though communications are encrypted in transit.

 

"The bad news is that platform exploits are very powerful," Blaze tweeted. "The good news is that they have to target you in order to read your messages."

 

He and other experts say reliably defending against a state-level adversary is all but impossible. And the CIA was planting microphones long before we became networked.

Q: I'M NOT A HIGH-VALUE TARGET. BUT I STILL WANT TO PROTECT MYSELF. HOW?

A: It may sound boring, but it's vital: Keep all your operating systems patched and up-to-date, and don't click links or open email attachments unless you are sure they are safe.

 

There will always be exploits of which antivirus companies are not aware until it's too late. These are known as zero-day exploits because no patches are available and victims have zero time to prepare. The CIA, National Security Agency and plenty of other intelligence agencies purchase and develop them.

 

But they don't come cheap. And most of us are hardly worth it.

Source: AP

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order66's picture

How to keep your TV from spying on you: Turn it off.

Logan 5's picture
Logan 5 (not verified) order66 Mar 7, 2017 11:13 PM

Point your TV at another TV that's looping 'ASS~ The Movie' or 'OW My Balls!' 24/7

Hayabusa's picture

Yes, point 2 TVs at one another and then place your mobile phone between them.

sleigher's picture

Turning it off will help just as much as turning off your cell phone.  It won't.  

The 90's bumper stickers mean even more now.  

KILL YOUR TELEVISION!

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) sleigher Mar 8, 2017 12:02 AM

That was so right, but I didn't even get it then.

Which tells me bumper stickers are bullshit.

What changed the world for good was the educational internet, the self research.

1980XLS's picture

There's a reason cell phone batteries are no longer removable.

ReZn8r's picture

I have a hammer that will turn off any cell phone or computer.

Bigly's picture

Besides throwing it in the trash you mean....

Where is the camera located to put tape on...and the mic?  I did not know mine had one.

Sharp aquos quattron have one?  Anyone know?  Shit....

CurveBall's picture

You, my friend, just earned a slow clap for that acronym!

TheEndIsNear's picture

It's an oldy but a goodie. Probably a Linux user.

Testudo321's picture

The trees he will use to make paper, to eventualy print his manual on, are still growing....

Crash N. Burn's picture

"It's an oldy but a goodie. Probably a Linux user."

Or worked in IT - more to the point of his question is you can't trust the manual. I have a sharp tv that supposedly has to have a wired connection to the internet. I have it connected by wi-fi even though that capability supposedly doesn't exist.

malek's picture

The "Off" is most times not really off, only standby...

You need to unplug the power cord, or hard-switch it.

BarkingCat's picture

Throw it in the dumpster

Zarbo's picture

Nope.  Gotta unplug it.  Power switch is "soft" these days.  Off is the new on.

Tarzan's picture

I work with a lot of machines in the printing industry.  When things go haywire and rebooting doesn't do the trick, we unplug everything for a few minutes, and then restart.  It usually works, and proves, off is not really off, on most computer driven machines.

keep the bastards honest's picture

TV can spy even when turned off.. the off switch is FAKE samsung at least.

quadraspleen's picture

You'd have to unplug it. Turning it off is so last year

thinkmoretalkless's picture

Well if the CIA is listening in to my "smart" tv they can join me in my frustration with my cable internet going down every few hours.

tmosley's picture

Remove the microphone, remove the camera, remove the GPS.

Same on every last device you could ever own.

Or, leave it all on and continue to help overwhelming their system with irrelivant/partially relevent data.

Bigly's picture

Both cameras on my phone taped but the mic is necessary to make/take calls.

Besides throwing it out, any thoughts?

I might get that block it pocket from infowars... .

ThanksChump's picture

Apple and Win Mobile devices can't be fixed.

Android, go to xdadevelopers.com. Reload the device with Cyanogen Mods' Android build. You'll spend 4 hours doing that, but you won't have that "Blockbuster Video" app that can't be removed.

hxc's picture

I have a mid-2000's 55" 1080p projection TV in my living room. Works for me and none of that camera/microphone/smart-tv/internet-of-things bullshit. Looks great, girls dont mind it either. Ran me $160 on Craigslist.

Curiously_Crazy's picture

Yeah me too, late 2000's Sony that cost over 8 grand new and I picked it up for a hundred bucks off Ebay.

Why people continually strive for the latest and greatest is beyond me.

OverTheHedge's picture

Does anyone know if Samsung et al have any problem with this revelation? I would imagine it might put a slight dent in smart connected internet of everything sales. Can you sue the CIA? Is there a special secret court for that? There must be a law firm that specialises in secret court cases, but they are probably secret. Is it me, or has everything become a farce?

BarkingCat's picture

I heard of FISA court but not of FUKYA court.

Amicus Curiae's picture

samsung installed their system TO spy on where you go what you watch on purpose, they admitted that ages ago

all cia did was use that facility

divingengineer's picture

99% of the idiots in this country would yield 1% of the useable "intelligence" that these things collect.
They can suck my balls. I got nothing to spy on, nor does anyone I know.

Nexus789's picture

I think they would gather 0.0000001% useful anything. It is all noise. The intelligence services are hyper expensive and quite pointless.

Not Goldman Sachs's picture

Oh but when whackko goes off the rails they can reverse profile the causal chain of events. Just do not hold them accountable for preventing the next one. Power freaks

chiquita's picture

If these guys are monitoring "everyone" through smart TVs, smart phones, smart refrigerators and other appliances, and--even though not directly mentioned here--collecting/storing every email and voice conversation made, who/how many of them are sifting through all the data they're collecting?  Really now.  Most--the vast majority of it--is just mudane crap, if not complete mind-numbing minutae of people's day to day boring lives.  Other than seeing people naked or semi-dressed or having sex (a lot of which I'm sure is not as exciting as it might sound), what would be interesting about any of this?  Sounds terribly time, resource, and money wasting if you ask me.  Pervy too.

I am a Man I am Forty's picture

This shit has gotten out of hand.

enfield0916's picture

Simple : Unplug the cord and give a GIANT MIDDLE FINGER to the cable company - specially A Tragedy & Travesty (AT&T). Buy a TV that is NOT "Smart", WITHOUT a built in camera or microphone but is compatible with other internet based plug and play devices WITHOUT cameras or microphones. After watching yur favorite show(s) - unplug the power and plug it back in when you want to watch something next time.

It takes less than a minute for modern devices to power on.

TheEndIsNear's picture

And seconds for old devices to power on.
Waiting for my TV to boot up was a shock to me.

Krungle's picture

So we are supposed to take the word of an AP journo foreign correspondent who's dad was an NBC exec during the Project Mockingbird that this is probably not for mass surveillance?

keep the bastards honest's picture

dont care about the spying TVs ipaddies phones etc  ... BUT when cars can be acted upon thats another matter. Look at North Korea all its rockets going sideways or imploding... all hacked.

Wahooo's picture

Just point your tv to an old porn movie. That's what those men and women want to see anyway.

navy62802's picture

1. You can become a target at any time, high value or not.

2. Most devices and machines use very simple code that can be modified by a novice, given some simple direction.

3. Emissions eminating from transmitting devices can easily be blocked if you know where the transmitter is physically located.

4. If you feel you are targetted, there are means by which you can legally conduct counter-targetting operations.

5. Learn how to use and manipulate the Linux and/or any free operating system. Proprietary OS's are the wet dream of all intelligence agencies, not just the CIA or NSA.

CRM114's picture

buy a smart tv of the generation that hasn't got a mic / camera -I have  samsung 5000 series. I believe the cia exploits are for the 8000 series.

satellite tv or OTA are also better than cable for security.

navy62802's picture

For less $$ and less risk, you can easily create your own smart TV that is WIFI enabled, BT enabled, has 4TB of storage, has a moderately fast processor, and has a decent video card.

Victor999's picture

It's that processor you have to worry about...

ThanksChump's picture

Intel, yeah. AMD, or ARM, no.

tragus's picture

I've always been a little suspicious of my coffee maker.

CRM114's picture

It probably doesn't trust you either.