Black Friday and its companion Cyber Monday have come and gone, and many homes are now full of sparkling new consumer technology. So far, so good–but some new technologies can make consumers vulnerable to electronic spying, according to a warning released by an FBI field office.

Smart TV’s have added considerable conveniences to our TV watching experience, but the FBI reported in a pre-holiday message that their facial recognition and internet streaming technologies may subject consumers to being spied upon, both by television manufacturers and by hackers.

Matt Tait, former GCHQ (a British signals intelligence service) analyst and cyber security expert, expains:

“Next-gen smart TVs and devices run complex software, have Internet connections, and often have integrated sensors like microphones. These features enable things like internet streaming services and voice-commands, but can unfortunately be subverted by hackers if the device gets compromised.”

The FBI warning outlines a number of steps consumers can take to protect themselves and family members:

  • Know exactly what features your TV has and how to control those features. Do a basic Internet search with your model number and the words “microphone,” “camera,” and “privacy.”
  • Don’t depend on the default security settings. Change passwords if you can – and know how to turn off the microphones, cameras, and collection of personal information if possible. If you can’t turn them off, consider whether you are willing to take the risk of buying that model or using that service.
  • If you can’t turn off a camera but want to, a simple piece of black tape over the camera eye is a back-to-basics option.
  • Check the manufacturer’s ability to update your device with security patches. Can they do this? Have they done it in the past?
  • Check the privacy policy for the TV manufacturer and the streaming services you use. Confirm what data they collect, how they store that data, and what they do with it.

If consumers HAVE been victimized by cyber fraud, the FBI directs them to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.ic3.gov/.