Who's Watching Who? A North East Internet Security Expert Is Warning That the Newest Telly Technology Means Our TVs Could Actually Start Monitoring Our Every Move. MICHAEL BROWN Reports
Byline: MICHAEL BROWN
TELEVISION," a wise man once remarked. "Teacher, mother, secret lover."
Not all of us have such a close relationship with the goggle box as that Homer Simpson ("The answer to life's problems aren't at the bottom of a bottle," he also once told us, "they're on TV!") but televisions are now getting not just bigger, but also more central to our lives.
The average person in the North East now watches more than four hours of programmes a day and many also use their increasingly hi-tech screens for other activities.
But what few probably wonder about is what happens if the TVs started watching back.
According to information security experts from the region, such an Orwellian surveillance nightmare could be just around the corner as the proliferation of so called Smart TVs opens up families to a whole host of new crimes. "Smart TVs are going to become quite prolific as the costs come down," said security expert Razul Sharif, who previously worked with Newcastle City Council in 2007 after the authority saw the names, addresses and payment card details of 54,000 people stolen.
"And because of the convenience, people are expected to use the technology they contain more and more often - a smart TV is just like a big tablet computer that sits on the wall.
"But while the manufacturers are jumping over each other to get new products out - and their TV technology is robust - their software security isn't."
"Ethical hacker" Mr Sharif has been conducting research into just how simple it could be for criminals to compromise a smart TV, using them to steal personal and financial information - or even watch families in their own homes.
And to prove his point, his firm Issertiv has created what they believe is the first demonstration of how easily fraudsters could steal credit card details using a malicious "app". "There are three aspects when criminals pick what to attack - means, opportunity and motive," said Newcastle- born Mr Sharif, who has also worked on information security in the Middle East and for building society Nationwide. "In this casemeansis a lack of security understandingon the part of the companies who kick out this technology.
"They won't admit they have an information security problem. It's like Microsoft when they brought out Windows. They said it was secure, but then hackers came along and you get service packs one, two and three to fix security issues they said hadn't been there.
"Opportunity comes in how little knowledge is required to carry out such an attack. It's not like 10 or 20 years ago when someone would have to spend time researching the platform they plan on compromising, now anyone who can program a little in a language like Java could create a Trojan app which could be used to intercept card or personal data and send it to a malicious website. …