Saturday, December 5, 2015

Internet TV And Its Security Issues

Till now we have used terrestrial television, cable TV or satellite TV. They use different media to distribute the content. For example, terrestrial television uses radio waves and antenna to send and receive contents. Cable TV uses radio frequency signals transmitted through coaxial cables or light pulses through fiber-optic cables to distribute contents. And satellite TV uses signals relayed from communication satellites to broadcast contents and receives it through set-top boxes or built-in television tuner.

But now, a new technology is emerging – Internet Television. It is the digital distribution of television content over the internet. Instead of radio waves or communication satellites, it makes use of the internet to distribute the contents.

How does Internet TV work ?

This technology has mainly four different elements :

  • content provider
  • public internet
  • receiver
  • display device

Content provider distributes the contents over the internet. It can be independent service like Netflix, Amazon video, Google Play Movies. It can be a service owned by a satellite or cable provider like SlingTV or a traditional film or television network like CBSN, HBONow. It can also be a peer-to-peer video hosting service like Youtube.

Public internet is the media through which the contents will be broadcast.

The receiver can be a web browser or mobile application. It can also be a digital media player connected with a remote control – Amazon Fire, Apple TV, NVIDIA Shield or Google TV for example. It can be a Smart TV, DVD player, Blu Ray. Or it can be a set-top box provided by the cable or satellite provider.

And display device can be a television set, computer monitor or built-in display of smart phone and tablet.

Is Internet TV secure enough?

We know that Internet TV uses internet as its broadcasting media. And transferring data through internet is unsecured.

With some research, we can think about few security concerns in this technology.

Firstly, every internet TV has to use something similar to IP address to enable it to receive contents. So, like other devices connected to the internet, an Internet TV is also vulnerable to DoS attacks. Attackers can redirect an excessive amount of traffic to a single Internet TV and perpetrate a DoS attack for malicious purposes in the same way as they do it for a computer connected to the internet.

Moreover, data transferred over the internet is unencrypted by default. So, if proper encryption technology is not used, attackers can intercept the communication to steal sensitive private data.

Another possibility is, attackers can install malware in the device and use that for monitoring and recording private data and exploit that for other malicious purposes.

For example, an Internet TV may be hit by ransomware. It can even get infected by malware and become a bot, after which its computational resources may be used for malicious purposes like making DDoS attacks or mining cryptocurrencies for the attackers.

Man-In-The-Middle Attack is another possibility, in which an attacker can intercept and modify communications to steal data sent and received on an Internet TV.


Firewalls can be used for an Internet TV, in the same way as we use for a computer connected to the internet.

Encryption is always a better solution. Proper care needs to be taken to make sure all the sensitive communications are encrypted using strong cryptographic keys.

And, proper care needs to be taken so that attackers cannot use phishing or some other social engineering to install malware in the system, so that they can use it for malicious purposes.

Technology is improving very fast. So, we can expect, by the time most of us will start using Internet TV, we will have performed many research and come up with even better prevention mechanisms.

So, this was an introductory article. Hope you enjoyed this.

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