Samsung has found itself the focus of considerable criticism after warnings users of its smart TV products to regularly scan their devices for malware in a marketing message since deleted.
The rise of smart TVs, which include an entire operating system capable of running downloaded apps ranging from games to clients for popular streaming services, has split the display market in two: On the one side are computer monitors and other professional displays, and on the other are smart TVs which offer the same resolutions plus tuners and app support for a typically lower cost. The reason: Adding the smart functionality to the TVs costs less than the company can raise in what Vizio chief technology officer Bill Baxter - executive of a company which was forced to pay $2.2 million in fines following a US Federal Trade Commission investigation into its data-gathering practices - calls post-purchase monetisation, otherwise known as having the TV literally watch the watchers for valuable marketing data to sell to advertisers.
With the rush to add this 'smart' functionality to TVs, then, there's little surprise to find that security and privacy take a back seat - a fact Samsung owners found highlighted this week when the company's US division posted a message, since deleted, to Twitter advising them to regularly scan their smart TVs for malware.
'Scanning your computer for malware viruses is important to keep it running smoothly. This is also true for your [Samsung] QLED TV if it's connected to Wi-Fi,' the message read prior to its removal. 'Prevent malicious software attacks on your TV by scanning for viruses on your TV every few weeks.'
While Samsung is the current focus of criticism following the tone-deaf message which puts the onus for device security on the user, as shown by the responses to the since-deleted tweet, security experts argue it's merely a displaying a symptom of a larger issue. 'The advice given to Samsung TV owners by the company to regularly scan for viruses is the tip of the iceberg as far as the challenges "smart" or internet-connected devices pose to users,' explains Javvad Malik, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4, of the issue. 'At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that malware is targeting TVs, but that's not to say it won't be the case in the future.
'Malware aside, this raises some questions around ongoing maintenance and reliability of devices. Getting users to keep their computers and mobile devices fully patched is challenging, expecting users will keep other devices up to date is not practical. Instead, manufacturers need to come out with better and easier ways by which their products can be kept up to date and secure for their customers. Additionally, users should be given the option to disable certain functionality if need be. But perhaps most importantly users should be provided clear and easy-to-understand information as to what is expected of them so they can make the right risk-based decisions.'
Samsung Support USA, the official Twitter account responsible for posting the original warning, has not commented on the response nor on the deletion of the tweet.
February 17 2020 | 09:00