Samsung can disable its TVs using Kill Switch functionality

Samsung televisions support a feature called TV Block, which the company may use to disable the TV remotely.

When large-scale looting happened in South Africa in July, warehouses and stores were looted. Samsung manufactured goods were looted from the company's warehouse in Cato Ridge distribution center in KZN, South Africa.

samsung tv block

Samsung South Africa released a press release on August 3, 2021 in which it revealed the existence of the TV Block feature and the plan to use it to disable looted TVs.

According to the press release, TV Block is preloaded on all Samsung TVs.

Samsung will be activating TV block on all Samsung television sets looted from our warehouse since the week commencing 11 July 2021. Rest assured, this will help. TV Block is a remote, security solution that detects if TV units have been unduly activated. This technology is already pre-loaded on all Samsung TV products.

TV Block requires that the TV is connected to the Internet. The serial number of the television is then compared on a Samsung server, and if it is found on a blacklist, all TV functionality is disabled.

Customers who have their televisions disabled by TV Block may contact Samsung to get the functionality restored. It is necessary to contact the local dealer with proof of purchase; the dealer then needs to contact Samsung to get the block lifted.

Samsung did not provide details on the scope of the blocking. Are TVs fully disabled or does TV Block limit some functionality only? Is the communication with Samsung servers also taking place when users use third-party hardware such as Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV to connect to the Internet?

Closing Words

A kill switch function may make sense from a manufacturer point of view. If TVs get stolen, they may be turned into a brick remotely, if the TV is connected to the Internet. For customers, it means that they are not the full owners of the product, as it is always possible for the manufacturer to disable the device; this could happen in error or after a successful hack.

It is often a good idea to block Internet connectivity on Smart TVS. Besides the blocking of advertisement, it will also block behavioral profiling and updates that may remove or reduce functionality, or make changes to the interface that may be unwanted.

Now You: do you connect your TV(s) to the Internet? (via Born / Bleeping Computer)

 

Summary
Samsung can disable its TVs using Kill Switch functionality
Article Name
Samsung can disable its TVs using Kill Switch functionality
Description
Samsung televisions support a feature called TV Block, which the company may use to disable the TV remotely. 
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Marti Martz said on August 25, 2021 at 7:56 am
    Reply

    Perhaps they didn’t learn from one of their other mistakes back in ~2010 with disabling Warner/Universal titles on BD players. * https://www.engadget.com/2010-08-22-samsung-blu-ray-players-wont-play-warner-universal-movies-afte.html

    Something else for someone to hack into and cause disruption. *eyeroll* Heck just add a few extra million serials to that blacklist would be a thought.

    Also do you remember where your receipt is for your legitimately purchased Samsung television (device)?

    If an RMA doesn’t accept eBay, Amazon, or other non-approved/authorized Samsung dealer/distributor then what will that do for proving one has the right to property and right to repair by owning said product that one paid, in full, for?

    Inquiring minds would all like to know.

  2. MikeO said on August 25, 2021 at 1:18 pm
    Reply

    I have no problem with this as long as it f**** up looter’s plans to profit from theft.

  3. just an ed said on August 25, 2021 at 1:50 pm
    Reply

    You will own nothing and be happy. I have no TV, and run Linux Mint on a computer I put together myself, but even that would not stop me from being pwned by undetectable firmware backdoors. It would appear that we only rent that which we think we own.

    1. Nightmare said on September 20, 2021 at 8:46 pm
      Reply

      yep :( you can soemwhat own if you root and jailbreak and custom rom. amazon keeps wipeing my tablets every year it seems unless they have been custom rommed.

  4. Herman Cost said on August 25, 2021 at 2:50 pm
    Reply

    If I connected my TV to the internet, I would certainly never buy a Samsung televsion until this ‘feature’ was eliminated. But I don’t connect it to the internet in any case, for precisely the reasons that Martin indicated.

  5. BM said on August 25, 2021 at 3:40 pm
    Reply

    Maybe there is money to be made developing a software hack of this protocol to inject the TV with a valid serial number?

    As Marti said, who retains their receipts anymore?

    Finding a credit card statement is not always reliably matched to the specific item (that is if the purchase wasn’t made with cash), let alone the question Marti rightly has on eBay and Amazon.

    Such potential for abuse as well.

    Such folly even if it is with good intentions.

  6. JonSnow said on August 25, 2021 at 4:14 pm
    Reply

    it wont work if you never connect it to internet..

  7. Ex S African said on August 25, 2021 at 4:23 pm
    Reply

    The problem in South Africa is that some of the stolen Samsung TV’s may not even be connected to the internet, since internet access is expensive and limited especially outside of the major cities.

    “Cable TV” in South Africa is broadcast encrypted Over-the-Air, with no internet link required.

    Landline or DSL internet is slow and expensive, with in-ground cable theft (for copper) being major problem.

    A old friend of mine used an 4G/LTE modem on his PC, and only logged onto it long enough to upload and download email.

    If Samsung TVs do not need an internet connection to show over the air or “Cable” TV channels, then this is a moot point.

  8. Henk said on August 25, 2021 at 5:49 pm
    Reply

    I’ve never bought a “smart” TV, though maybe some day I will have to, as “dumb” TVs become ever more rare. And I never connected my TV to internet through provider-tuned set-top boxes and the like. Also, since years I have no classic cable connection anymore.

    Nowadays I use my TV screen only for streaming from other internet-connected devices. Most of the time this is with a dedicated media laptop, one that is permanently connected to the TV and also directly connected to the sound system. This streaming setup gives me optimal freedom to keep tuning the sound, privacy settings, channels login data, VPN locations etc. all exactly as I want to have them.

  9. Anonymous said on August 25, 2021 at 11:12 pm
    Reply

    My Sony TV does something similar but slower and not totally bricking it. The specs for ‘Smart’ aren’t generous. It is turning itself into a dumb set as the Apps that still remain are re-written and demand more RAM.

    When I bought it there were hundreds of apps. Now there are 27. You guessed it, most want more RAM.

    If it was possible I would never buy a ;’Smart’ set again.

    A far better option is to use a media streaming device (e.g. Roku, Chromecast, Firestick, etc). They are far less expensive to upgrade. When freed from lockdown, my current Chromecast gets replaced. By what I am unsure.

  10. ULBoom said on August 26, 2021 at 3:08 am
    Reply

    Makes it easy to decide which brand of TV to not buy. Which Holier Than Thou Fool in Samsung’s executiive suite dreamed up this? I doubt it’s legal for a number of reasons. It’s already going wrong.

    Samsung sold the TV’s to dealers. Maybe because riots, civil insurrection, etc., are not typically covered by insurance, dealers lose out big but I don’t see how Mr. Sam Sung can claim emergency police powers.

    Whatever. I had a TV online a few years ago but now just use them as monitors. It’s simple to pump most anything into one.

    So, what else have they built into all their junk? A lot of things we don’t know about, I’d bet.

  11. KERR said on August 26, 2021 at 7:56 am
    Reply

    Very happy with my “dumb” TV connected to a Windows PC, where I can watch free to air/on demand/streaming services/youtube/home videos/music/general web browsing/media server/video encoder/KODI/torrent box/virtualbox host all in one. Can also play PC games, emulators on it. Now that’s “SMART”

  12. Mele20 said on August 26, 2021 at 10:06 am
    Reply

    Local dealer? You consider Target and WalMart to be “local dealers”? Only place now to buy TVs since Sears closed recently. I bought my current Samsung TV from Dell at a better price than “local” Target and WalMart and had it shipped free to Hawaii but currently Dell is not selling TVs.

    Don’t any of you use your TV as a computer monitor? I can’t imagine not connecting my Samsung to the internet. A 55″ “monitor” is really nice even though I have my 24″ Dell Ultrasharp monitor with two Dell computers connected to it sitting next to the Samsung TV. I like being able to see my iPhone photos on the larger TV monitor.

    I also have my Samsung connected to my cable TV box (no TV without cable here) and also connected to my router. Mine’s old enough now (almost 5 years) that it rarely gets an update now but it got them regularly about once a month or so until it was over three years old. They would start when I turned on the TV and interfere with the beginning of whatever network show I wanted to watch. Seems Samsung has never heard of a user only turning the TV on right on the hour for a network show and then turning it off when the show is over. The firmware updates though were useful, added to functionality of the set, and periodically removed some of the absurd apps that came on the TV. I’ve been happy with the set, as I was with the Samsung TV before it, and my next TV will be a Samsung.

    Having a cable box freed me from the ridiculous remote that Samsung had just come out with when the TV was new….a tiny thing (thus extremely easy to misplace) that was a nightmare to use. As for remembering where my receipt is, if I lost it all I needed to do was go to Samsung’s website (or Dell’s), put in the information and it was registered then I could lose the receipt and not worry. I had two extra years of support
    for it which I used.

  13. common sense computing said on August 26, 2021 at 12:32 pm
    Reply

    Connecting a smart TV to the Internet is just asking for forced ads and spyware, especially on non-Android TV where you can’t do anything about it.

  14. Anonymous said on September 7, 2021 at 12:02 pm
    Reply

    A backdoor with anti-theft as the excuse, that reminds me of the Computrace/Lojack backdoor for computers, phones and cars:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolute_Home_%26_Office

    They have probably made less secretive equivalents today now that backdoors are no longer seen as a bad thing by big tech-brainwashed crowds.

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