Samsung’s security reminder makes the case for not owning a Samsung smart TV

Image: Samsung

Samsung has reminded owners of its smart TVs that they should be regularly scanning for malware using its built-in virus scanning software. “Prevent malicious software attacks on your TV by scanning for viruses on your TV every few weeks,” a (now deleted) tweet from the company’s US support account read alongside a video attachment that demonstrated the laborious process.

The obvious question here is why in the world doesn’t Samsung automate this process. When so many people don’t even know how to turn off motion smoothing, what are the chances that they’re going to be mindful of security practices? It also illustrates how dumb some smart TVs can be.

Samsung’s now-deleted tweet recommended that users run a virus scan every couple of weeks.
Image: Samsung / Twitter

It’s unclear whether the tweet has been put out in response to a recent threat. There haven’t been any recent security vulnerabilities reported for Samsung’s smart TVs, but back in 2017 WikiLeaks revealed that the CIA had developed a piece of software called “Weeping Angel” that was capable of turning Samsung’s smart TVs into a listening device. Less than a month later a security researcher found 40 zero-day vulnerabilities in Samsung’s smart TV operating system, Tizen. At the time, Samsung released a blog post detailing the security features of its TVs, which includes its ability to detect malicious code on both its platform and application levels.

Virus scans are another reminder of how annoying modern smart TVs can be. Sure, they have pretty much every streaming app under the sun built in, and Samsung’s models can even be used to stream games from a local PC. But they also contain microphones that can be a privacy risk, and are entrusted with credit card details for buying on-demand video content. Even when everything’s working as the manufacturer intended, they can be yet another way of putting ads in front of you, either on your home screen or even in some cases directly into your own video content.

Samsung’s little PSA about scanning for “malware viruses” (eh hem) might be a sound security practice on a Samsung smart TV, but it’s also an excellent reminder for why you might not want to buy one in the first place.

Update June 17th, 11:10AM ET: Samsung has now removed its initial tweet. We have updated our piece to reflect this.

Comments

I wonder though, if my smart TV doesn’t have a built-in camera or a mic, why would I care about its security? What could it possibly do? Share what I watch with the attacker?

It could be used to exploit other devices on your home network, which might actually contain information you wouldn’t want someone else to have.

Google "Faxploit" to see how some network connected Fax machines can be exploited and used to attack other devices with security vulnerabilities on the network.

Makes sense. But what if other devices on the network are updated and secure? Basically checking the TV for viruses is just a precaution then?

its best to just never use the Tvs built in so called Smart features. I basically just either use an Apple TV (because its interface is nicer IMO)…however you can also get an android box etc.

I get the pull of smart TVs but like every android phone they wont be supported long term and after that they are a massive security hole due to lack of patches.

I just find it too convenient to use Netflix and YouTube on the TV itself. My other options are PS4 and Xbox, but it takes a while to turn those on, while launching the app on TV takes seconds. I may eventually look into switching that functionality to a smart box, but what would be the best choice for top quality, 4K Chromecast? What I liked about the TV apps is that they offered 4K HDR picture without any issues.

Personally, I have my Xbox One X set up as the main control center for all my other AV equipment. The LG OLED has been mitigated to dumb TV duties. It bugs me that their stupid OS is running on it but I try not to think about it.

The Xbox turns everything on and off and my cable is looped through it. I use OneGuide instead of the native cable guide. The Xbox supports 4k HDR content. I use Microsoft Movies to buy/rent, Netflix 4k and Amazon Prime.

If you have a minimum of an Xbox One S, I would try that in lieu of the smart TV stuff.

It is worth noting that I don’t use any Google services. Pretty sure that it supports Chromecast but I’ve never really seen the point to casting something that can run natively on the box. Xbox does have a YouTube app but I don’t have it installed. So, your media consumption diet may dictate that you use a different solution.

I do have a One S that I bought specifically for 4K blu rays, but I just don’t want to use it for everything since it takes at least 3 times as long to launch as Netflix app on the TV itself, and using the controller is not as convenient as TV the remote.

I recommend the Xbox One Media Remote, if you do decide to explore that option. I’ve used mine since the One X upgrade lost the Kinect.

Of course, it doesn’t have all the numbers of a traditional remote if you need those, and it won’t improve the start-up time if that continues to be an issue.

Just set your Xone up to only sleep rather than shutting down completely. I’ve done that so all of my games and the Xone patch automatically. When I fire it up I have zero "chores" to complete AND it fires up fairly fast.

Doesn’t beat the TV though. It also stands by instead of shutting down, and I can get from turned off to playing next episode of a show on Netflix in under 5-7 seconds.

Only really need the play/pause/rewind functionality, so thanks for the heads up on that!

But yeah, start-up time still an issue. Still though, may look into this

But I love the magic wand of LG OLED, I’ll look into the suggestion of the media remote though

Best choice for quality would be an Apple TV IMO, but 4K chromecast is a decent option and if you don’t mind ads the 4K firetv is a good choice too.

All are way more convenient and preferable to using a console.

That means no YouTube in 4K though apparently? One of the reasons I’m using TV built-in apps is that they guarantee best picture quality with 4K/HDR support in everything.

Chromecast Ultra is a 4K streaming device. I watch plenty of content via Youtube and Netflix in 4K.

Edit- I see from a different comment you made that you are specifically referring to Apple TV regarding lack of 4k Youtube.

Best 4K HDR box? Apple TV 4K, hands down, easily. It’s got a fast processor, plenty of space, and Apple’s got deals with content providers to get the best quality steams across boxes.

Seems like a pretty good option, but then again, I’d be paying a couple hundred bucks for something my TV can do in seconds already, just to be potentially safer and to have a bit more fluid experience.

And it seems that Apple TV 4K doesn’t support YouTube in 4K, which means I’ll still use the TV for that?

I’ve got several Chromecast Ultras in my house and love them. The only negative I personally have with Chromecast is the inability to stream Amazon Prime. That’s Amazon’s fault though, not Google’s.
With that said, there will be some people put off by having to use their phone to control everything. That’s a huge draw for me, as I find it much easier to browse for what I want and then cast it versus scrolling through onscreen menus looking for content. It also means I can start watching something on Youtube for example while still adding additional videos to my queue. When I used my PS4 for watching Youtube I would watch a video, then have to find the next.

How is the quality, though? Do phone apps provide content in 4K HDR to stream on the TV? Is it identical to watching the same apps on a console or TV app?

The quality is the same as if you were watching on the app.

It doesn’t stream from the phone, the phone just links the Chromecast to the appropriate server for the video.

If the video is in 4K the Chromecast ultra will stream it in 4K. The phone app is just the interface to select, play, pause etc the video, so yeah it’s identical to any other device other than you use your phone to select your video instead of using a remote and doing it on your tv.

Other devices are a mess about this, hence my hesitation. Consoles took a while to get 4K/HDR options, Apple TV supports 4K on Netflix but not YouTube, and so on.

Another thing I don’t get is, does Chromecast have it’s own OS with apps? Or does it simply cast what you open on some device? Then the supported display format will be based on that device?

The user interface is whatever app you use on the phone, it just casts (connects) the video to the chromecast for you, but you still control it through the phone app. The phone/tablet is the OS.

Last I checked it doesn’t support Amazon Prime, it’s one of the reasons I switched to Apple TV but still keep a chromecast around. That may have changed though.

Still no support for Amazon Prime because Amazon won’t allow it. It’s highly aggravating. Amazon Prime is the only streaming service I watch now on my PS4.

I think JediTed answered pretty well but wanted to chip in a bit…

Chromecast is simply a hardware dongle. There is no unified app that everything runs through. You do the initial setup with the Google Home app, but that is essentially just getting the hardware setup on your wifi and then adjusting some settings like ambient display.

The magic is that almost all streaming providers have built in the ability to Cast. So you open the app you want to watch content from and then click on the Cast button at the top, pick your Chromecast and then select the content.. voila, it’s now playing on your TV. The Chromecast establishes a direct connection to the content provider via your wifi and the whole thing is offloaded from your phone. Meaning, you can now watch said content while using your phone to browse other things.

This also works for services other than video. I routinely cast Google Music to my Chromecast as that plays through my AV system. I then get a large display of the album art and the song timer on my TV, which is nice.

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