Samsung has ‘TV Block’ which can remotely disable ‘illegally acquired’ televisions: Only legitimate buyers with proof of purchase can unlock them

Samsung Smart TV Block
A remote Kill Switch resides inside Samsung TVs. Pic credit: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr

Samsung has the ability to remotely disable televisions. The company confirmed it has deeply embedded a technology called TV Block to dissuade illegal acquisition and ownership of TVs.

In a Press Release released earlier this month, Samsung has confirmed TV Block. It is a built-in feature that can remotely disable any television set the company has manufactured in recent years.

TV Block is a deterrent to vandalism, rioting, and mass looting, confirms Samsung:

Samsung has revealed that it has been deploying a feature into all the television sets the company manufactures. The TV Block feature, if activated, can essentially render a TV useless.

The company indicated it was relying on the feature as a deterrent to the rising street crimes where ordinary citizens vandalize stores. In the majority of cases, civilians break into stores and steal costly electronics, which includes phones, gaming consoles, and television sets.

Samsung warehouses and stores reportedly suffered during the riots that broke out in South Africa in July. The company revealed the TV Block feature in a Press Release, in response to the riots.

“TV Block is a remote, security solution that detects if Samsung TV units have been unduly activated, and ensures that the television sets can only be used by the rightful owners with a valid proof of purchase.”

“The aim of the technology is to mitigate against the creation of secondary markets linked to the sale of illegal goods, both in South Africa and beyond its borders. This technology is already pre-loaded on all Samsung TV products.”

How does TV Block feature work in Samsung television sets?

Samsung claims the TV Block feature is only to limit looting and “third party purchases”.  The company has integrated the feature within the core firmware of the television set.

A distributor who has been the victim of theft can add all the serial numbers of the stolen TVs into a central database that Samsung maintains. When a Samsung TV connects to the internet, the device pings Samsung’s server.

If the TV has a serial number that is in the stolen TVs database, the TV Block feature will automatically disable all television functions. Needless to mention, there are quite a few chances the feature might block TVs that consumers have acquired legally.

If actual customers experience the wrath of TV Block, they can send proof of purchase and a valid TV license to the Samsung retailer. The retailer can confirm the legitimacy of the purchase.

Alternatively, buyers can email [email protected] with the relevant details. Samsung assures the company will try to restore full functionality within 48 hours of receiving the necessary proofs.

While many consumers have appreciated Samsung’s attempts at dissuading vandals and rioters, some security experts have expressed doubts. It is quite likely that threat actors might get hold of the servers. They could start remotely disabling TVs while demanding a ransom to unlock them.

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