TCL Says Its TVs Have no Backdoors Despite Allegations

By Bill Toulas / December 28, 2020

Back in November, security researchers found a way to access TCL smart TVs remotely and without authentication, which essentially opened the way for planting malware, modifying existing files, or exfiltrating sensitive user data. The discoverer of the security flaw added that TCL failed to respond to his reports after two weeks had passed, while the firm’s attempt to fix the problem was totally superficial and didn’t have any alleviating effect whatsoever.

Last week, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, stated that the federal agency was looking into TCL products, and TVs more specifically, to fully appreciate the backdoor risk. As the official stated, this year, they discovered that TCL incorporates backdoors into all of its TV sets. He further added that there's evidence the firm is state-supported, which complicates the situation for the brand’s presence in the United States.

TCL has felt the need to refute these claims now, saying that they are very concerned about the inaccuracies that hit the media these days, underlining that they have been conducting business in the United States for over 15 years without any security risk ever having been proven. About the security vulnerability, TCL states it affects less than 2% of the TVs sold in the US, and it’s not a purposefully planted backdoor or anything like that. According to them, this has already been fixed via OTA updates.

Additionally, the company clarified that the only software that runs in its TV products is developed and supplied by Roku and Google, so even if there’s anything wrong revealed through an in-depth investigation, they shouldn’t be the entity to point the finger at. Of course, that’s not an excuse by TCL to rebuff any responsibility to fix security flaws, but a reminder that they may not be directly liable for their existence. Finally, they state that neither the DHS nor any other federal agency in the US has approached them to discuss matters of security or any inexplicable findings in their products. As such, there are no ongoing investigations to their knowledge.

TCL has been a global best-seller of TV products in 2020, a year that marked an explosive growth in the particular market thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the info given in the recently-published Q3 earnings report, the company sold 7.24 million TVs during the particular three-month period, which is up by a whopping 49.7% compared to last year. While China was traditionally the biggest market for the consumer electronic firm, in the first half of 2020, TV shipments to the United States surpassed those to any other country, including China.

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