The problems affect Samsung televisions along with TV models made by TCL and other brands that use the Roku TV platform. Therefore, without too much effort, a hacker could take control over it, playing inappropriate content, change channels, install apps, and play with the volume.
This could be done over the web. Consumer Reports is clear that none of the vulnerabilities it has found would allow the hacker to spy on the user or steal any of their information.
The testing found that all these TVs raised privacy concerns by collecting very detailed information on their users.
The consumer group offered a variety of ways to keep information from being collected, but cautioned that a lot of what makes smart TVs valuable to users requires some form of data collection. He argued that Samsung smart TVs ensure owners that just authorized applications are able to control the TV.
But according to a report released to Thinknum Media this morning from Consumer Reports, it turns out that those $29 best-selling devices aren't just streaming Netflix: they're leaving consumers wide open to hacks that could allow someone to do anything from change your TV's volume to pull up unsavory content on, say, YouTube.
Smart TVs represented more than half of all TV sales in the first half of 2017, according to market researcher GFK, and at this point, most sets being marketed are "smart".
Apparently, the hackers were able to use Roku's own feature to hack its unit. That feature can be combined with other information and used to target advertising on your TV and mobile phone.
"This is a mischaracterization of a feature", says Roku's Gary Ellison. The Samsung flaw was more hard to exploit and had specific circumstances needed to work. "Unfortunately, the mechanism they use to ensure that applications have previously been authorized is flawed".
Samsung said it will look closely at Consumer Reports' research, and tighten up any security issues, but Roku said Consumer Reports is wrong, and that there's no security risk with its products. "It's as though once you unlocked your door, the door would never lock again".