Samsung is still lying about the encryption on its Smart TVs
When news broke that Samsung’s Smart TV’s listened to conversations and sent them to a third-party server company, the Korean manufacturer countered by claiming that all data transmissions to and from its televisions were encrypted. When testing demonstrated that the data in question wasn’t encrypted (despite being sent via Port 443, which is typically used for HTTPS traffic), Samsung modified its stance, claiming that new TVs were encrypted properly but older sets were not. This, too, has now been proven false.
After last week’s findings, we spoke to the security researchers at Pentest Partners to ascertain the make and model of the TV they’d tested. The initial model was a UE46ES8000, a top-end TV for its day, but now two years old. This time around, the team tested a UE55HU7500. This screen currently retails for £1,569.86 in the UK according to Amazon. Reviews date from June 2014 through Jan 2015 and the unit is widely available — it is, in other words, a “current” Samsung TV by any reasonable sense of the word.
The team tested the new television in the same manner as the old and found that data is still being transferred in plaintext.
Still, there was a chance that a firmware update to the television would solve the problem, since the new set has been shipping for some months. An update was available, and the team applied it — to absolutely no effect. The data remains unencrypted.
Bad security will destroy the Internet of Things
It’s easy to dismiss such rigor as unnecessary and to pretend that the entire burden rests on Microsoft or Google, but that attitude will kill most IoT devices in the long term. If Smart TVs acquire a reputation for risking user security due to high profile hacking incidents, consumers will learn to avoid them. Translate that across the IoT ecosystem, and the long-term market will be fundamentally compromised.
It’s time for Samsung and other manufacturers to directly name the devices they’ve locked down, the devices that remain unencrypted, and a timeline for fixing this problem.
Take away message
1. Samsung used port 443 – in an attempt to masquerade the traffic as encrypted. This is the most shocking part of this story. Did they think that packet analysers would not look at the actual transmission? It’s like fitting a burglar alarm, that’s made out of an old McDonalds hamburger box – and it’s just an empty box.
I am shocked – utterly shocked by these findings. They are recording the conversations in your living room and transmitting them around the world in UNENCRYPTED PLAIN TEXT. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – several expletives do come to mind.