December 11, 2012, 8:45 PM — If you're watching TV and the channel suddenly changes, you may not have sat on the remote control by accident.
Researchers with the security consultancy ReVuln in Malta have found a vulnerability present in most TVs made by Samsung Electronics that could allow an attacker to install malicious software, turn on its webcam and even change the channel from afar.
In a video titled "The TV is Watching You," ReVuln shows the screen of an unspecified Samsung LED 3D model with a vulnerability that is exploited by the researchers giving them "root" access to the TV, or total control.
"If the attacker has full control of the TV...then he can do everything like stealing accounts to the worst scenario of using the integrated webcam and microphone to 'watch' the victim," said Luigi Auriemma of ReVuln via email. "The vulnerability affects multiple models and generations of the devices produced by this vendor, so not just a specific model as tested in our lab at ReVuln."
ReVuln makes money by finding vulnerabilities and then selling the details of the problems to companies. Auriemma said the information has not been shared with Samsung yet.
Auriemma said Samsung TVs run on Linux. Some models allow users to attach USB drives to the TVs. The vulnerability would allow a hacker to access a USB drive remotely and look for sensitive information.
It is also possible to copy the configuration of a TV's remote control, which would allow a hacker to copy the remote control's settings, and remotely change the channel. Malicious software could also be installed on the TV's operating system.
The vulnerability would benefit an attacker who has "a specific target and wants to retrieve additional sensitive information about him. In this case, a common TV is a perfect way," Auriemma said.
Other information that could be stolen includes lists of channels and firmware passwords, ReVuln said.
Samsung officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
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