Monday, March 4, 2024

Have a Smart TV? Don’t Forget to Add a VPN to the Mix

It seems that everything can be hacked these days. Smart TVs can be vulnerable to hacking, and even other “smart” devices ranging from smart car keys to baby monitors are vulnerable to interception and modification. Who would’ve thought smart TVs are vulnerable, right? Why would someone want to hack a TV? Well, there are several legitimate reasons for that. What about the fact that some smart TVs have microphones and cameras, for one? 

This is now the reality we live in and we must take care to secure our smart TVs. This is not the least because a security issue or a cyberattack on your smart TV can spiral out of control and affect your other devices.

What Are Smart TVs?

Smart TVs are, you guessed it, televisions that are smart! It’s quite self-explanatory. Well, not really. Think of it this way; smart TVs are internet-connected and offer interactive features as well as apps. For instance, here are several brands that offer smart TVs today (perhaps you own a smart TV made by one of these manufacturers);

● Samsung Electronics

● LG Electronics

● TCL

● Hisense

● Sony

● Skyworth

● Foxconn (Sharp)

● Xiaomi

● Vizio

● Haier

● Panasonic

● Chonghong

● Konka

● TOSHIBA

In the United States alone, over 40 percent of internet users own a smart TV. This means millions of people have at least one of these devices in their homes and are susceptible to security risks if they don’t practice good cyber hygiene (i.e internet security best practices).

Keep in mind that all smart TV manufacturers will ship their products with different setups and various levels of security out-of-the-box. Like with all other tech products, it is mostly up to the user to enable features on their devices. For instance, some people may not trust Chinese products such as some of the manufacturers in this list. However, any smart TV can be hacked if the user is not careful enough.

One way to secure a smart TV is by using a network obfuscation mechanism known as a virtual private network, or VPN for short. Let’s talk about that!

What Is a VPN?

A VPN, or virtual private network, is a network protection technology that utilizes tunnels to hide internet traffic. The modern VPN is a different beast altogether from the proxies and PPTP tech of years gone by. Today, as with most software, VPNs come in the form of versatile and compact applications which are compatible with several operating systems. 

A VPN is designed to obfuscate your internet connection by rerouting it through its servers (the servers owned by the VPN provider). For instance, if you are running a premium VPN like NordVPN, your internet connection will be routed through the company’s servers which may be anywhere in the world depending on where the user connects to.

Technically speaking, a VPN both encrypts and anonymizes the internet connection. This means that hackers will find it difficult to read or “intercept” that data in transit. For instance, if you are sitting at a cafe connected to a public WiFi hotspot, a VPN will stop anyone from snooping on your browsing activity.

A VPN also anonymizes you so that the government and your ISP do not know precisely what you are doing online. For instance, you might like to connect to a server in India. This means that every internet service and website will think your connection is coming from India. You’ll even be greeted with a local India Google page.

VPNs and Smart TVs

Apart from outright security, a VPN installed on your smart TV can help you unblock geographically restricted content (by connecting to those global servers we mentioned earlier). It is important to note that VPN usage on Android TVs and Amazon Fire TVs is different (but still possible).

There are multiple ways to make your smart TV use a VPN-protected internet connection. Here are some of the ways you can do that;

  • Connecting your smart TV to a VPN-enabled Windows PC connection
  • Installing a VPN directly on your router
  • Creating a virtual router

The easiest way is to use your Windows PC to simply help your smart TV. This means subscribing to and installing a premium VPN on your Windows PC first. Then, you must go into your Windows PC’s hotspot settings and select “share my internet connection over.” After this step, connect your smart TV to the mobile hotspot you just created. This mobile hotspot is now transmitting a VPN-protected WiFi signal to your smart TV! 

Remember, you can also do this on a Mac device, however, the steps are different from Windows 10 (although still completely possible). The logic is the same. Your smart TV is connecting to the VPN-connected internet hotspot you just created on your desktop or laptop computer.

The second-best way to do it (which is the most secure) is to install a VPN directly on your modem/router that spreads WiFi throughout your house. You can also opt for a router that comes pre-installed with a VPN (there are already several models available out there). In fact, it would be most useful to do the latter because the former involves you messing with a bunch of technical settings which may prove tedious if you are not tech-savvy.

And there we are. Using a VPN is paramount these days, whether it is on your smartphone, laptop, desktop, tablet, smart TV, or other Internet-of-Things device (IoT device). Millions of people are already benefiting from the benefits of using a VPN. These benefits are un-censoring the internet, and lifting geographical barriers on streaming content, not to mention the added benefits of military-grade encryption and online anonymity thanks to switchable IP addresses. 

Perhaps it won’t be long before we see smart TVs with integrated VPNs. However, remember that doing this manually is always the safest way, which means getting that VPN on the source of your connection which is your router or modem.

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