Update your smart TV. Fear not, it will never be as smart as you;)

Is your computer connected to a smart TV? If so, the following information will give you a good idea of how to update your smart TV.

What is a smart TV? A smart TV can access WiFi and run applications just like a smartphone (unlike a regular TV or computer monitor).

A smart TV, just like a computer or a smartphone, requires periodic maintenance in the form of “updates” from the manufacturer for security and performance enhancements. This is an example of how to update smart TVs:

  • Using the remote control that came with the smart TV, select a settings button. Most settings buttons look like a small gear to activate the settings menu.
  • Navigate through these settings menus to find the network options (all smart TVs are different so navigating through the menus to become familiar with them is the best approach if you do not have documentation handy). In the network options there will be features allowing you to connect to a network (it doesn’t matter if your computer that is connected to the smart TV is connected to a network or not, the smart TV is a separate entity and will not use the network connection of your computer – the smart TV needs its own network connection to receive updates). The screen will tell you if you are connected to a network or not. If you are not, then attempt to connect to WiFi, if this does not work then plug a network cable into the back of the smart TV and plug the other end of the network cable into a network port in the wall of your home if you have one or a network port on your wireless router.
  • Using the remote that came with the smart TV, select the settings button again if you do not already see options on the screen for updating the smart TV. Most settings buttons look like a small gear. Click on the setting to download updates to the smart TV. Wait for the download to complete (a message will appear on the screen telling you the updates are complete, depending on the frequency of the updates in the past, the updates can take a few minutes or up to an hour to complete).
  • Once the updates are download, turn the smart TV off, wait a few seconds and turn the smart TV back on for the updates to take effect.
  • Disconnect the smart TV from the wireless network (by using the smart TV remote > settings) or the hard-wired network (removing the network cable from the back of the smart TV and from the network port in the wall of your home or from the network port on the back of your wireless router).
  • Many smart TVs will also read updates from a thumb drive that is connected to the back of the smart TV, this is an often problematic approach for updating some smart TVs due to the number of steps involved (users have to visit the manufacturer web site, download the updates to the thumb drive while the thumb drive is connected to the computer then remove the thumb drive from the computer and place the thumb drive into the back of the smart TV and the smart TV may or may not be able to read the files on the thumb drive or may or may not be able to even recognize the thumb drive).

Am I being recorded? Probably not, maybe, wait, hmmmm…

Our homes, offices, purses and cars are filled with gadgets that make life more convenient and fun.  Unfortunately, with these new devices comes risk of privacy invasion in the form of being unknowingly monitored through a camera or microphone on a device.

If you want to protect your privacy, it is up to you to read the documentation that comes with any device you bring into your home or workspace so you fully understand what features are in the device and the potential consequences of using the device.  If you do not have documentation for your device, simply perform an Internet search on the name of your device (followed by the word “documentation”).  A few suggestions on how to handle various devices are outlined below.  There are many other methods of protecting your privacy so consider these suggestions a first step toward privacy and not complete solutions.

SMART PHONES

Install updates as they are released.  Put the device in a drawer, cell phone signal blocking case, or sound proof case when not in use.  Or, review the device documentation for instructions on how to disable the camera and microphone via the interface.  Don’t forget, most smart phones allow photos to be taken from either side of the device so if the device is hacked, there is no guarantee that a phone ‘face down’ on the counter is going to protect your privacy.

LAPTOPS

Keep anti-virus software up to date.  Install Windows updates as they are released.  Shut down or close your laptop when it is not in use.  If your laptop computer has a built in web cam or microphone (read the documentation to find out if it does), cover the web cam lens with a sticker to prevent unwanted recordings when the laptop is in use.

Disabling the microphone is a little trickier.  Mute the microphone in a way that is difficult, tedious, or impossible for the hacker to manipulate (like the sticker over the camera lens strategy – unless a hacker is in your house, that sticker is not coming off of the camera lens).  One example is disabling the microphone by plugging in a dummy microphone into the microphone port of the computer and disable the microphone through the system BIOS (you get into the BIOS normally by selecting F2 or F12 during boot up to Windows).

SMART TVS

If your smart TV has a built in web cam or microphone (read the documentation to find out if it does), cover the camera lens with a sticker to prevent unwanted recordings when the smart TV is in use.   Read the documentation for your specific smart TV to determine how to disable the microphone.  If you are unable to locate instructions on how to disable the microphone, then simply hire an 80’s big hair band to stand next to you smart TV and sing night and day to drown out any confidential chatter going on in your home.

HOME

If you live in a home accessible by a person you do not know or trust (or was at one time accessible by a person you do not know or trust), change the locks when you move in.  Periodically search the interior and exterior for things like small cameras, wires, microphones or antennas (ex. pay close attention to areas around windows, behind mirrors, attics, and crawl spaces).

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