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The bureau said web-connected televisions are vulnerable to various forms of attack, during which a hacker could seize control of the device and “cyberstalk” owners. File Photo by James Atoa/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 5 (UPI) — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning the American public about a peculiar possibility — that their smart televisions have the capability to watch them.

The FBI’s Oregon field office issued a warning that said owners of Internet-based smart TVs and similar devices should take precautions once they bring the items home. Because the devices are plugged into the Internet, they are susceptible to hacking.

“A number of the newer TV’s also have built-in cameras,” the field office said in a Nov. 26 advisory. “In some cases, the cameras are used for facial recognition so the TV knows who is watching and can suggest programming appropriately.

“There are also devices coming to market that allow you to video chat with grandma in 42-inch glory.”

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There are, in fact, multiple risks with smart TVs, the bureau noted.

“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,” it said. “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 FBI advised owners to take a few precautions to guard against unwanted surveillance. One way is to change passwords, and another is to disable the device’s cameras and microphones in the set’s settings menu.

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Checking the manufacturer’s ability to install updates and learning its privacy settings is also a safeguard owners can make.

“Next-gen smart TVs and devices run complex software, have Internet connections and often have integrated sensors like microphones,” said Matt Tait, a former analyst at the British signals intelligence service GCHQ.

“These features enable things like Internet streaming services and voice-commands, but can, unfortunately, be subverted by hackers if the device gets compromised.”

“[Hackers] can change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos,” the FBI added. “In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you.”