If you own a smart TV or are looking to buy one this holiday season, the FBI has some advice for you.

The FBI says smart TVs, which have the ability to connect to the internet, use streaming services and apps and can even talk to people, can be vulnerable to hackers.

Many newer TVs have microphones and cameras built-in, which let you communicate with the TV by shouting at it or using facial recognition. While these features can allow TV manufacturers, app developers and streaming companies to track what you're doing, they can also make your TV a gateway for hackers.

The FBI said hackers can take control of your TV and let them change channels, mess with the volume or show your kids inappropriate videos. In a worst-case scenario, hackers might be able to turn on your bedroom TV's camera and microphone and "silently cyberstalk you," the FBI said in a blog post.

To keep your home and devices safe, the FBI has these tips:

  • Learn what features your TV has and how to control those features, like the camera, microphone and access to personal information.
  • Don't depend on the standard security settings. Check passwords if you can.
  • If you can't turn off the camera, you can simply place a piece of black tape over the camera's eye.
  • Check the manufacturer's ability to update your device's security software.
  • Check the privacy policy for the TV and the streaming services you use, like what data they collect and how they store it.

If you've been victimized by cyber fraud, contact the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center or call your local FBI office.

We also spoke to a cybersecurity expert from Vine IT in Tampa about how to protect your information.

  • Always update to the latest firmware or software on your device.
  • If you can, have two separate networks. One should be for phones and computers, the others should be for things like your TV, streaming devices and digital assistants like Alexa or Google Home.
  • Pay attention to your devices in the news. If you hear about any vulnerabilities, do research on how to fix those.
  • Change your network passwords from passwords they came with.
  • Make sure every device has a different password.
  • Regularly check your network webpage to see all the devices that are connected to your network.
  • Turn off devices when they’re not being used.

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