DO THIS NOW: Scan for viruses on your Samsung TV

The Solid Signal Blog covers a lot of topics, but none more so than DIRECTV. As I write this, we have over 1,300 articles about our favorite satellite service. That’s about one quarter of the articles on the site, about one particular thing.

We love DIRECTV satellite service, and for most of the 2010s, Samsung smart TVs allowed you to connect to DIRECTV Genie DVRs without a client box. The technology was called RVU, and then DIRECTV-Ready. It was retired last year, but not before many of us developed a long association with Samsung smart TVs. I’ve owned several myself.

There’s always been risk

I first published an article in 2013 talking about Samsung Smart TVs. I worried about smart TVs with cameras and what they could be sending to the whole internet. Unfortunately that article was lost when we migrated blog platforms in 2017.

There’s a later one, though, which confirmed my worst fears. In 2015 it was revealed that Samsung’s microphones were on all the time and that they were impossible to turn off. Samsung says the data wasn’t used for anything but understanding what you wanted. Still it was a little scary any creepy.

What we didn’t realize then was, intentional spying was only part of the story.

Your TV can get viruses.

At least in theory anyway. Samsung’s smart TVs are based on an operating system called Tizen. It’s an offshoot of the Linux OS that powers most web servers. Tizen, Linux, Android, iOS and even the Mac OS are all based on Unix, one of the original industrial operating systems. Those other operating systems are prone to malware, and Tizen is too.

The good news is that Samsung puts in some virus protection. The bad news is that they haven’t told you about it and haven’t made it easy to find. You would think there would be some sort of scheduled scanning or automatic protection. That doesn’t seem to be the case though. In a recent tweet, Samsung encouraged their users to scan for viruses every few weeks. Here’s Samsung’s official video showing the procedure:

In a now-deleted tweet which The Verge was able to preserve, they advocate doing this every few weeks. 

Every few weeks. I bet you’ve had your Samsung Smart TV a while and never did this, ever. Who knows what’s on there.

Is the threat overblown?

Viruses on a Samsung TV would seem to be what programmers call an “edge case.” It’s not likely. You would need to have an active account where you download paid apps. Then you would need to actually download some of those apps. After that you would have to download an app that was sketchy enough that it could contain malware. Then, (backing up a little) someone would have felt like it was worth the time to write a virus for these TVs. A lot of things would have to go wrong for all of this to happen.

Yet, that’s sort of what hackers look for. It’s easy enough for the big companies to protect against the big threats. Putting a virus on your TV is just the sort of thing that hackers would do, because it could be years before it’s found.

As I said… do this.

OK, maybe you’re not at home while you’re reading this. But if you do have a fairly recent Samsung Smart TV, then do scan for viruses. Chances are you won’t find any. But it’s worth the time to do it and it only takes a second.