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 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?
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.