The short answer is yes, a smart TV can get a virus and malware. Most of us don’t realize our smart devices around the home are just as vulnerable to viruses and malware as our phones and computers are. In fact, in 2019 two different television brands were reported to have been infected by smart TV malware and viruses.
How Does a Virus Get into a Smart TV?
In a tweet, which has since been pulled down, Samsung advised its Smart TV users to scan their TVs for security threats and viruses. This wasn’t taken lightly, as people went on a frenzy on Twitter wondering whether the TVs were being hacked or something bad had happened.
Another separate instance was the Amazon Fire TV malware that put users at risk of a cryptocurrency-mining Android virus.
The malware worm variant wasn’t specifically targeting the Fire TV devices, but its Android-based OS made them vulnerable to a possible infection. It manifested with a “Test” message and the green Android robot icon randomly appearing on the screen.
Among the ways your TV could get a virus are sideloading an external app, inserting an infected USB stick into the TV, or an installation file being replaced with ransomware using a man-in-the-middle kind of attack, in turn causing your TV to lock up. Plus, built-in features like the microphone on your smart TV could be compromised and used for eavesdropping on your conversations.
Should I Be Worried?
While getting a virus on your smart TV may seem like a cause for concern, it shouldn’t be. They’re not common because it’s not easy to create viruses that work on TVs. Many TVs come with some native features that make it hard for developers to create malware and similar threats that can successfully infect a TV for several reasons.
Certain conditions must be met before a hacker can attack your TV. For example, if your TV’s ADB bugging feature is enabled, the hacker is on the same network as yours and can hijack your DNS resolution or access the network path.
One of these reasons is that the TV’s operating system is designed in a way that it can’t write code into the smart TV’s chip systems. The code is “read only,” meaning only your TV’s operating system can read it for the TV to work properly.
Consequently, the malware developer would have to rewrite that code in order to infect the TV so the malware can take root and replicate or consume resources.
Plus, for firmware updates to take place on your smart TV, they require a digital signature. For this reason, malware can’t take root in the TV even if it was placed in its memory. After a firmware update, the malware will simply be removed along with the code that the update has replaced.
However, if your smart TV does get infected with malware or viruses, they will block access to the TV’s configuration settings or files. It could also trigger an overload on the TV’s voltage, but that’s probably as far as it would go, which is why malware writers don’t bother creating malware that can’t cause much damage.
How to Get a Virus Off Your Smart TV
While your smart TV may seem difficult to infect, it doesn’t mean it isn’t at risk. In fact, numerous smart TV brands have been found to be at risk of remote hacking, which allows hackers to control the TV and even install viruses or malware based on certain security flaws.
You can still protect your smart TV if you’re worried about a possible infection by viruses, malware, or hacking by taking some precautionary steps:
- If your device’s manufacturer has a native virus scan option you can run from the TV’s settings menu, scan your TV regularly.
- Do not plug infected USB sticks into your smart TV.
- Update your TV’s firmware, apps and any devices connected to it. Hackers and malware writers use exploits in older firmware and apps, but updates come with security patches that can prevent such targeting.
- Keep your home network secured, as smart TVs connect to the Internet. An antivirus and firewall on your router is a good way to prevent your smart TV from falling victim to hacker attempts or malware infections. You can also use a complicated router password, keep the router firmware updated, turn off remote management, use a guest network for the TV, or set up a separate network for it.
- Don’t surf the Web with the built-in browser of the smart TV. Most don’t come with the necessary security protection to protect you. If you must surf, steer clear of dodgy sites that tend to be laden with malware, and don’t download apps from sites that your TV manufacturer hasn’t authorized.
Although it is rare that a smart TV would be infected by malware, it’s not completely risk-free. If you’re worried that it could be or already has been infected, you can perform a hard reset to get everything back to factory defaults.