Samsung says it can remotely disable stolen TVs

Samsung says the feature is “already pre-loaded on all Samsung TV products.”
Image: Samsung
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Samsung has revealed its TVs can be remotely disabled if the company finds out the units have been stolen. The feature is called the “Television Block Function” and Samsung says it was recently activated in South Africa after a number of Samsung TVs were taken from a company warehouse during a wave of protests and unrest last month.

Samsung says the technology is “already pre-loaded on all Samsung TV products” and “ensures that the television sets can only be used by the rightful owners with a valid proof of purchase.” For the TV Block Function to work, Samsung needs to know serial code of the stolen unit. When the set connects to the internet, it checks its serial code against a list on Samsung’s servers, and disables all TV functionality if it finds a match.

The TV Block feature logo.
Image: Samsung

Blocking the TVs stolen in South Africa was presumably relatively easy. They’d been taken from Samsung’s own warehouse, where the company would be tracking its inventory. Although it may sound like this feature might be used to help individual consumers whose TVs have been stolen, Samsung says it’s only for use in large-scale thefts.

The company told The Verge: “The sole purpose of Samsung TV Block is to mitigate cargo theft and unauthorised retail. This is to ensure that the TV products are used by owners with a valid proof of purchase. Samsung TV Block is only activated when there is a specific, confirmed report of a stolen or unlawfully obtained device. Consumers can rest assured that this function does not activate on TVs with a valid proof of purchase. Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously, and our TVs are designed with privacy in mind.”

The company does say, though, that in the event that customers in South Africa have one of their TVs blocked by accident, they can have the block lifted by sending a proof of purchase to zaservicemanager@samsung.com.

Update Tuesday August 31st, 10:12AM ET: Updated with statement from Samsung.

Comments

i wonder when they will start blocking second-hand TV sets…

Just don’t connect them to the internet.

well, a Smart TV would not be that useful then…

also, from what i’ve been reading on this topic on Reddit, Samsung TVs have the nasty habit of connecting to open networks on their own.
i have not verified the claim but it seemed to be a "known fact"…
for example https://forum.developer.samsung.com/t/if-you-choose-to-not-connect-your-samsung-smart-tv-to-wifi-it-will-secretly-connect-to-your-neighbours-passwordless-wifi/7926

Was about to say the same thing. I wonder if removing the wifi chip bricks the whole tv. Not that I would ever buy another Samsung TV again.

And look at the reply from Samsung – looks like they were trying to censor his post

This won’t work if if they are only used with a set top box or a streaming stick, will it?

As long as you never connect the onboard computer to the internet it can’t phone home.

So this is why the push to Smart TVs… I would rather have a dumb TV.

No, the push to Smart TVs is so that they can force adverts in your face all day and make more money. This is just a side benefit.

Thankfully my smart TV can be configured as a dumb tv, booting direct to an HDMI without ever showing any of the "smart" crap.

Security vulnerability discovered allowing attackers remote access into Samsung Smart TVs…

I tried to use a modern TV’s onboard system for apps. The experience was pretty poor; reminiscent of early-generation Android phones.
External boxes (Apple/Google TV) provide a much better experience. Especially after reading of the microphone spying some time back, there’s no way these shady data leeches get connectivity to my TV (or any other appliance).

This will be a fun one to watch when the black-hats hack Samsung’s control system and start holding customer’s TV for ransom. I can picture it now – you turn on your TV, and all is shows is instructions on how to send Bitcoin to unlock your set.

No body is going to tell you this, unless you performed your own research… Smart TVs don’t need an internet connection for creepy feature functionality to establish a connection, they’ll just broadcast their signal/existence with maximum throughput (~1W, typically it’s gonna be around 750-900mW) using the embedded radio transmitters, the signal could very easily reach several miles. Any interested parties will respond to this "ping" and they can "converse" (establish a two-way connection). Just as good as an internet connection. This infrastructure is already in place.

Stay away from Smart TVs if you care about your privacy.

How long before some bug or hack starts mistakenly flagging TVs as stolen?

Read the article

… I did. The article addresses that they have an email address. I’ve had experiences with Samsung support that make me doubt that this is a good experience. That also doesn’t mean that this can’t be abused/hacked/broken.

What if I told you Samsung and Sony Smart TVs can watch & hear you as well (and so do advertising companies)? Too far fetched?

i’d say that without a camera in my TV it would be quite hard to watch me.

i bet you’ve never inspected the innards of a modern smart tv. Take a look at the sensor panel. Infrared as well as visible light sensors are easily misused. My advise, stick to the biggest monitor that doesn’t have any "smart" capabilities or an embedded radio chip.

no, i definitely haven’t checked the insides of my TV.
I’ve tried looking into monitors in the past but from where i’m from they’re really hard to find and they’re unfortunately not really an option.

Good

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