The CIA and my Samsung TV

That an internet connected TV with a camera and a microphone can be used as a surveyance tool is not a surprise. Still, one wonders how often this actually happens. Is it done on an ad-hoc basis or is it done systematically and most of the time?

I happen to have a Samsung TV. It is always connected to the internet via Wi-Fi and only via Wi-Fi (no ethernet cable). And it is always connected to the power supply.


Weeping Angle only affects Samsung TVs from 2012 and 2013, but still, I started to wonder. Is my TV as chatty as my mobile phone, which communicates almost constantly, even when I am asleep?

The answer surprised me.

First a typical traffic pattern from my phone. The darker the green, the more Wi-Fi traffic in that 5-minute interval.

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In the whole period from Saturday 15:00 to Sunday 18:00 there was not one 5-minute interval in which my Samsung S7 running Android 7.0 was quiet.

Now the traffic pattern of the Samsung TV:

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 09.17.54.png

Lots of traffic while watching, but zero Wi-Fi packets in the air when turned off. How nice of you Samsung. I am impressed.

This to me means that spyware might collect data at any time of the day via my TV, but it does not send it when the TV is off. At least when the TV is turned off, the CIA, or any other agent, cannot listen into my living room live via this TV.

The spyware could use the time the TV is on to also communicate what it has recorded earlier, hidden in the flood of legitimate traffic, but that’s it.

Wi-Fi is the TV’s only connection to the internet and there is zero Wi-Fi traffic coming from the TV during the time the TV is off. At least not in the 7-day period I checked.

Am I missing something?