You thought the only struggle with your streaming service might be fighting with family members over bandwidth and access, but unfortunately, hackers can also be a part of the equation if you’re not careful.
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It’s not account access that is the worst offense that a hacker can inflict. If they do hack, it is usually through your network, and that means they can get access to most of your devices, which can spell big trouble for your privacy and security. That’s why we are grateful to Art from Florida for asking this question that we can address:
“Can a hacker get into my computer through a streaming box? I don’t care if they get into the box, but I don’t want them in my network.” — Art, Bradenton, Florida
Art, your concerns are valid. It isn’t the streaming box itself being hacked that should be your biggest concern. Yes, hackers can “get into” your streaming box, but worse, your network.
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Roku Express 4K+ (Roku) (Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson)
How do hackers exploit your streaming devices and more?
The bad news is that your streaming box can be hacked like most devices that are linked up to the internet. There are limits to the damage they can do with that access. Their damage would be limited by the mechanics of the streaming box: for instance, if your Roku has no camera but a microphone, they can listen to your conversation, but they won’t be able to watch you. They may have access to what you’ve been watching or some account information.
Chromecast with Google TV (Google) (Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson)
The even scarier part, however, is that hackers usually have to infiltrate your network in order to have access to your streaming box, which means they’ll have access to most devices that are part of that network. Those other devices are usually fully equipped with the ability to spy on you and hold valuable data. The best approach is to protect and secure your network to prevent hacking of your network in the first place. First, as an example, let’s check your Roku to make sure no one uninvited is connecting to it.
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Someone else is controlling my Roku
We often hear of people wondering how someone else nearby can get access to their Roku device. Channels may change unexpectedly, content can be cast onto the Roku, or the previously viewed shows may not be recognizable. If this happens, in addition to locking down your wireless home network and following the advice in the next section, check your Roku settings for anything unusual. Here’s how.
- On the Roku remote, press the home button to go to the main screen. Select “Settings,” then System, find Screen Mirroring, and make sure “none” is selected for others having permission to stream content to your Roku.
- Next, do the same for Remotes by selecting Remotes & devices from the Settings menu. Unless you have permitted others, you should not see any other remote control devices connected except yours.
- Now check the Guest Mode by clicking Guest Mode from the Settings menu. Make sure no other people are shown – who may have access to your Roku in Guest Mode.
- Finally, from the Settings menu, select System, then Advanced System Settings. Click Control by mobile apps and make sure you see either “default” or “disabled” selected so that no one else is using a mobile app to control your Roku.
Woman with remote control watching streaming content (Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson)
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10 ways to protect and secure your network
Since prevention is the best approach to keeping hackers out of your network in the first place, below are several actions you can take to ramp up security.
1) Create a strong password: Make sure your Wi-Fi network is password-protected and that you are using a strong password with upper and lower case letters, numbers, as well as symbols. It should be unique for the network and not easy to guess. Hackers often exploit the weak or default passwords that come with the devices. So, again, use strong and unique passwords for each device and change them regularly. Consider using a password manager to generate and store complex passwords.
2) Turn on encryption: Most modern routers offer WPA2 and WPA3 encryption or better to prevent unauthorized access to your network. Check out our list of top routers for best security 2024 by clicking here.
3) Update your firmware and software: Wi-Fi and cable routers, like most smart devices, need to have their firmware occasionally updated in response to known attacks by the manufacturer. It’s important to keep your device firmware & software updated to prevent any exploitation from known vulnerabilities. This includes your streaming boxes, browsers, and operating systems such as Windows and Apple’s iOS. Both Apple and Android issue updates regularly, so check for and install them often. Also, check the manufacturer’s website or app for the latest firmware versions and how to install them, but you should also enable automatic updates whenever possible.
4) Use a Firewall: A firewall protects the devices you have connected to your network from intruders on the internet. Just like a security fence protects your house from intruders, a firewall keeps cybercriminals and hackers from breaching your computer. It can take the form of software, such as a security program, or hardware, such as a router. Both perform the same function. They effectively act as a one-way digital barrier by blocking access to your network from devices on the internet while simultaneously allowing devices on your network to connect to devices on the internet.
Most routers come with network firewalls enabled. To check if your router has a firewall enabled, you can follow these steps:
- Connect your computer to your router using an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi.
- Open a web browser and type the IP address of your router in the address bar. You can find the IP address on the label of your router or in the user manual. It is usually something like 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1.
- Enter the username and password to log in to your router’s web interface. The default username and password are often admin and admin, but you should change those if you haven’t done so yet.
- Look for a section called Firewall, Security, or Advanced in the web interface. There you can see if your router has a firewall enabled or disabled. You can also change the firewall settings according to your preferences.
If your router doesn’t have a firewall, you can install a good home firewall solution on your system to prevent router attacks.
5) Be careful of downloading apps: Because malicious codes can be gained through apps from third-party sources, it is important to only download apps through authorized places such as the Apple Store or Google Play. Even when downloading from those authorized sources, check the ratings and read the reviews to make sure that apps are reputable.
6) Install good antivirus software: Having good antivirus running on your devices will alert you of any malware in your system and alert you against clicking on any malicious links that may install malware on your devices, allowing hackers to gain access to your personal information. The best way to protect yourself from these kinds of cyberthreats or having your data breached is to have antivirus protection installed on all your devices. Get my picks for the best 2024 antivirus protection winners for your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.
7) Use a VPN: (virtual private network) to encrypt your internet traffic and hide your online activity from hackers. A VPN creates a secure tunnel between your device and the internet, preventing hackers from intercepting or modifying your data. You can use a VPN on your streaming devices, your router, your smartphone, or your computer. See my expert review of the best VPNs for browsing the web privately on your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.
8) Segment your network: By creating a separate network or a guest network for your streaming devices. This way, even if your streaming devices are compromised, hackers won’t be able to access your other devices that contain sensitive or personal information. You can segment your network using your router’s settings or a third-party app.
9) Disable remote access: Turn off remote access to your streaming devices and your router. Remote access allows you to control your devices from anywhere, but it also exposes them to hackers who can exploit the open ports and protocols. Unless you need remote access, turn it off in the settings of your devices and your router.
10) Turn it off: While it is easier to keep all your devices on, you can limit their time connected to the network or access to hacking by turning off and unplugging your streaming device when it is not in use.
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Kurt’s key takeaways
Streaming devices pose some security risks but are unlikely to be the source of a hack into your life. Hackers can use any unprotected device connected to your network to infiltrate and compromise your security. This sort of trouble can lead to identity theft, data loss, or privacy invasion. To protect yourself and your network, you need to take some preventive measures, such as changing your passwords, updating your firmware, using a VPN, disabling remote access, and segmenting your network. By following these tips, you can enjoy your streaming services without worrying about hackers.
Have you ever experienced a security issue with your streaming devices? When was the last time you checked your privacy and security settings on your streaming device? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.
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