How to Protect Your Smart TV from Viruses (Android TV & Samsung)

Smart TVs like Android TV and Samsung Smart TV are becoming more and more popular these days. They provide great convenience by allowing you to stream movies and TV shows, surf the web, play games, and more. However, as smart TVs connect to the internet, they can be vulnerable to cyber threats just like computers and smartphones. Malware and viruses designed to target these smart platforms are on the rise. If your TV is infected, attackers can gain access to your personal data, display unwanted ads, or even take control of your TV. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent viruses on your smart TV. This comprehensive guide will provide tips on how to protect both Android TV and Samsung Smart TV models from viruses and other malware.

Understanding the Risks

Before learning how to protect your smart TV, it’s important to understand the risks you face. Smart TVs contain many of the same components as smartphones and computers. This allows them to connect to the internet, download apps, and store data. However, it also provides potential entry points for cybercriminals. Some of the key risks include:

  • Malware infections – Like any device, smart TVs can be infected with malware. Viruses, spyware, ransomware and other threats may attempt to infect your TV via malicious apps, infected files, phishing websites, or network-based attacks. Once installed, malware can steal data, brick your device, display intrusive ads, or spy on you.
  • Insecure default settings – Many smart TVs ship with insecure default settings such as weak passwords, outdated software, and enabled debugging options. These settings allow attackers to easily gain access and take control.
  • Vulnerable apps – Smart TV app stores are not as tightly controlled as smartphone app stores. Malicious apps containing viruses can slip through vetting processes. Outdated apps with known vulnerabilities are also risky.
  • Invasive data collection – Some smart TV manufacturers and app developers engage in excessive data harvesting from viewers. Your viewing habits, location, and other personal data may be collected and sold without your consent.
  • Lack of updates – Unlike smartphones which are regularly updated, many smart TV models receive infrequent or no security patches at all. This allows vulnerabilities to persist, which can be exploited by malware.
  • No endpoint protection – Antivirus software is commonplace on computers and smartphones, but not smart TVs. Very limited endpoint security options exist, making malware removal difficult.

Being aware of these threats will help you understand the importance of properly securing your smart TV.

Securing Your Android TV

Android TV is a version of the Android operating system customized by Google for the larger screens and input methods of smart TVs. It powers many smart TVs manufactured by Sony, Hisense, Xiaomi, Nokia and more. If you own an Android TV, here are steps you should take to protect it:

Use Strong Passwords

Like any device, using strong passwords is one of the most basic security measures for your Android TV. Every Android TV has options to set passwords for unlocking the device, accessing settings, and purchasing apps or content. Avoid weak passwords like “1234” or “password” that are easy to crack. Instead, use randomized passwords with upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Password managers like LastPass can help you generate and store unique passwords. Also be sure to change default passwords set by the manufacturer.

Update Software Regularly

Software on your Android TV should be kept fully up to date to ensure you have the latest security patches. Bug fixes and patches are frequently released that address vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malware. To update, go to Settings > Device Preferences > About > System Update. Check for updates often and install them as soon as they become available. Enable automatic updates if possible so you don’t have to constantly remember to check.

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Only Install Trusted Apps

One of the main infection vectors for malware on Android TVs is malicious apps. Stick to downloading apps from the official Google Play Store found on your Android TV. Avoid sideloading apps from third party stores or unknown sources. The Google Play store vetts apps better and provides protection against malware tainted apps. Also check app reviews and only install apps from reputable developers. Make sure to review the list of permissions an app requests during installation. Overreaching permissions could indicate malware.

Run antivirus Scans

Antivirus software designed for Android TV is available that can periodically scan for malware or viruses. Options like Bitdefender TV Antivirus or Kaspersky Safe Kids for Android TV can be installed for real time monitoring. Antivirus apps will notify you of any malicious apps found and prompt you to remove them. This can help detect and eliminate any malware that may have slipped through.

Disable Debugging and Unknown Sources

Most Android TVs have Developer Options that enable USB debugging, app sideloading, mock locations and other capabilities. These are handy for developers but also introduce security risks. Disable USB debugging in Settings to prevent attackers from compromising your TV via USB connections. Also disable Install Unknown Apps to block installation of sideloaded apps that haven’t gone through Google Play vetting. Don’t enable Developer Options unless you absolutely require them.

Connect Wi-Fi Securely

Always ensure you connect your Android TV to a secure Wi-Fi network with encryption like WPA2 or WPA3 enabled. This will prevent snooping of data sent between your TV and router. Avoid open Wi-Fi networks that lack encryption. Also position your Wi-Fi router in a central location so your Android TV can connect with a strong signal. Weak Wi-Fi signals can allow data interception more easily. Use wired Ethernet connections for the most secure option if possible.

Limit Tracking and Permissions

Like smartphones, Android TVs request access to various data such as location, microphone, camera and contacts. Be very selective in what permissions are granted. Disable any unnecessary permissions and limit sharing of personal data. Also monitor settings and apps for any tracking options and opt out of data collection where possible. Reducing data exposure will lower your risk.

Following these tips will significantly improve the security posture of your Android TV. But proper configuration is still required…

Securing Your Samsung Smart TV

Samsung is one of the most popular smart TV brands with their advanced Tizen operating system. While Samsung TVs offer great features, their connectivity also warrants security precautions. Here are some ways to protect your Samsung Smart TV from malware and hackers:

Use the App Store Safely

The Tizen Store available on Samsung TVs offers apps, games and streaming services to enhance your TV. However, malicious apps can still be present. Stick to installing well-known apps from reputable developers. Check ratings, reviews and download numbers to gauge an app’s legitimacy before installing. Be wary of apps that demand unnecessary permissions or seem sketchy.

Install Antivirus Software

Specialized antivirus solutions like Bitdefender Home Scanner and Norton 360 Deluxe can be installed on Samsung TVs to detect viruses or malware. These will monitor for malicious apps and files and notify you of any threats found. This will provide layered protection in case a bad app makes it onto your TV.

Enable Automatic Updates

New vulnerabilities in Tizen are constantly uncovered, so having the latest software is critical. Navigate to Settings > Support > Software Update on your Samsung TV to enable automatic updates. This ensures you always have the most secure firmware without having to remember to manually update. Install updates as soon as they become available.

Use Strong Samsung Passwords

Set strong alphanumeric passwords for your Samsung account, Smart Hub login and screen lock PIN. Avoid obvious passwords that could be easily guessed. Regularly change these credentials as well to maintain security, especially if you suspect any passwords may have been compromised. Enable password visibility off to prevent onlookers from snooping them.

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Connect Wi-Fi Securely

Never connect your Samsung Smart TV to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks. Make sure your home Wi-Fi has modern WPA2 or WPA3 encryption enabled to prevent data interception. For content streaming that requires more bandwidth, use wired Ethernet connections which are more secure. Place your Wi-Fi router centrally in your home so your TV can connect with a strong signal.

Disable Remote Access Features

Options like Remote Access allow you to access your Samsung TV from other devices like smartphones. While convenient, these provide another avenue for hackers to access your TV. Disable Remote Access under System > Expert Settings if it is not actively used. Also disable Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC) to prevent TV control via HDMI connections if not needed.

Limit Use of Cloud Services

Features like Cloud Gaming rely on online cloud connections. While useful, frequent cloud connections can increase exposure. Disable Cloud Gaming under General Settings if not regularly used. Also limit SyncPlus and other cloud syncing features to only essential accounts. The less you connect to the cloud, the lower your risk profile.

Opt Out of Data Collection

Review Samsung’s privacy policy and opt out of any non-essential data collection where possible. Disable permissions for tracking and limit services that share usage data. Samsung Health also accumulates personal fitness data that could be valuable for hackers. Disable Health sync options and turn off if not being used. The less data exposed, the better.

Following these best practices tailored for your Samsung Smart TV will help keep viruses and malware at bay. But additional precautions are still needed for fully securing your smart TV…

General Smart TV Security Tips

While the guidance provided above covers Android TV and Samsung models specifically, there are also general smart TV security principles that apply across platforms:

Position Away From Windows

Avoid positioning your smart TV where it is visible through exterior windows. Passersby could potentially see personal information displayed on your TV. Keeping it away from windows reduces the risk of shoulder surfing. Close blinds or curtains for added privacy.

Install TV Updates

Just like phones and computers, TV software contains security flaws that need patching. Always accept TV firmware updates when prompted to ensure vulnerabilities get fixed. Enabling auto-updates makes this seamless. If updates are unavailable for your older smart TV, consider upgrading to a newer model that still receives updates.

Disable Unused Features

Most smart TVs are packed with features, many of which may go unused. Disable options like built-in cameras, microphones, voice assistants, gesture controls, mobile screen mirroring, wifi direct and any other capabilities not actively needed. Reducing the TV’s attack surface lowers your exposure to hacking.

Use Privacy Filters

Special screen filters and films exist that make it difficult for anyone other than directly in front of the TV to see the display. This prevents snooping of any personal info displayed on your TV. Privacy filters are affordable and easy to install for most TV models.

Skip Public Wi-Fi

As covered earlier, it is critical to always connect smart TVs to private encrypted Wi-Fi networks, especially when streaming or entering sensitive information. Never connect to unsecured public networks which are breeding grounds for cybercriminals to intercept traffic and infect devices.

Monitor TV Domain Traffic

Inspect the domains your smart TV communicates with using your router or firewall settings. Most smart TV data should only be sent back to the TV manufacturer. If unfamiliar servers show up, it could indicate malware phoning home. Research any unknown connections.

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Factory Reset Before Sale/Disposal

Performing a factory reset before selling, gifting or disposing of your TV ensures no personal data remains accessible to others. This typically involves accessing settings and selecting factory reset options. Make sure to sign out of any profiles and accounts as well.

Combining these smart practices based on your TV type and brand along with general security principles will help defend against the growing threat of smart TV malware. But users should also consider alternatives that guarantee security…

Security Focused Smart TV Platforms

While the steps outlined above are great for improving security, some smart TV platforms are designed from the ground up with privacy as a core focus:

  • Caavo – This smart TV box consolidates streaming services while collecting zero user data and putting privacy first.
  • Meemo – Meemo’s smart display blocks cameras and mics while providing secure streaming capabilities.
  • Steam Link – The Steam Link app turns smart TVs into basic monitors for more secure gaming via your PC.
  • Raspberry Pi – Using a Raspberry Pi device provides smart features without any proprietary software/data risks.
  • Dumb TVs – Choosing a non-smart TV avoids all smart TV risks, requiring a set-top box for streaming.

These alternatives ensure your smart TV usage remains secure and private. While some provide fewer features, they eliminate threats posed by built-in smart TV software

So in summary, the threat of viruses and malware on smart TVs is increasing – but with proper precautions, you can defend your Android TV, Samsung TV or other smart TV model. Implement password protection, limit permissions and data sharing, install security software, perform timely updates and follow other steps covered to keep your TV viewing safe from cyber criminals. Or consider a smart TV platform designed for privacy. Taking action will help you enjoy your TV with peace of mind.

Conclusion

Smart TVs provide incredible convenience and entertainment in the living room. But their tight integration with the internet also introduces risks of malware, unauthorized access and data privacy issues. Fortunately, users are not defenseless against the smart TV hacking threat. By taking the right security precautions, vigilant owners can enjoy their Android TV, Samsung TV and other models without compromising safety.

Implementing strong passwords, running antivirus scans, updating software, using Wi-Fi securely and limiting unnecessary permissions and data collection are powerful ways to prevent viruses. Following tailored tips for your specific TV brand along with general smart TV security practices provides layered protection. With proper configuration, smart TV owners can keep cybercriminals at bay.

For those seeking even greater privacy, purpose-built smart TV boxes like Caavo put security first by design. Opting for more basic setups using devices like the Raspberry Pi is another route. And sticking with “dumb” non-connected TVs avoids all smart TV risks entirely.

While hackers are setting their sights on the lucrative smart TV landscape, educated users have multiple ways to defend against this emerging threat. By becoming aware of the risks and learning how to mitigate them, you can continue enjoying the entertainment, convenience and connectivity of smart TVs safely. With the right precautions, your big screen can remain a reliable source of technology enjoyment free from cyber attacks.

References

Consumer Reports, “Smart TVs Can Get Hacked. Here’s How to Protect Yours”, https://www.consumerreports.org/privacy/smart-tv-hack-protection-a9859655574/, 2022.

Kaspersky, “Smart TV security: how to keep hackers out of your living room”, https://www.kaspersky.com/resource-center/threats/smart-tv-security, 2021.

Norton, “Smart TV security risks: Ways to keep your data safe”, https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-iot-smart-tv-security-risks.html, 2022.

How-To Geek, “Yes, Your Smart TV Is Vulnerable to Hacking. Here’s How to Secure It”, https://www.howtogeek.com/502071/yes-your-smart-tv-is-vulnerable-to-hacking-heres-how-to-secure-it/, 2019.

Tom’s Guide, “Smart TV malware: How to keep your smart TV from getting hacked”, https://www.tomsguide.com/how-to/smart-tv-malware-how-to-keep-your-smart-tv-from-getting-hacked, 2021.

Android Authority, “How to improve smart TV security on your Samsung, LG, and Android TVs”, https://www.androidauthority.com/how-to-improve-smart-tv-security-313092/, 2019.

Review Geek, “How to Check Your Smart TV for Malware”, https://www.reviewgeek.com/43751/how-to-check-your-smart-tv-for-malware/, 2019.

Mohamed SAKHRI
Mohamed SAKHRI

I'm the creator and editor-in-chief of Tech To Geek. Through this little blog, I share with you my passion for technology. I specialize in various operating systems such as Windows, Linux, macOS, and Android, focusing on providing practical and valuable guides.

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