Tuesday, December 3, 2019


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently published an alert for consumers, warning them of the potential financial crime dangers that come with owning the latest generation Smart Television. These entertainment devices, which allow Internet access, are often equipped with microphones and facial recognition software, as well as programs that allow video chat.

The Oregon Field Office of the Bureau, in an article entitled Securing Smart TVs*, warns consumers that cyber criminals can easily penetrate Smart TV security, unless the user takes proactive steps to change default passwords, monitor and install all manufacturer updates and security fixes, cover the camera lens, and take all steps necessary to reduce the risk that their activities be monitored from outside. Having someone watch you in your bedroom should be enough to cause users to be concerned, especially since there is no privacy protection from the bulk sale of buyer's identities as  Smart TV owners by the manufacturer.

Why is this is of interest to compliance officers at international banks ? While it might be useful to use the 42" screen of a Smart TV to examine documents, social media images, and passport photos when conducting enhanced due diligence inquiries at work, unless you undertake the aforesaid measures to prevent money launderers and financial criminals from coming into your office, uninvited.

Just as compliance officers are curious about the strategies and tactics employed by financial criminals, they are also wanting to know about your policies and procedures, the identities of your staff, and even the identification of ongoing projects. Do not think this is paranoia; financial criminals have been attending, or attempting to attend, compliance seminars and conferences for decades, and counter-surveillance should be a priority in your office, lest one day you learn, too late, that sensitive internal information was used in a work-around that resulted in a successful money laundering operation being accomplished on your watch.

Therefore, unless you intend to be totally proactive, and use your IT division to bullet-proof that huge Smart TV, it is humbly suggested that you confine your Internet research to your personal computer.

A final note; when I served in Vietnam, during America's battles against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army, we had a small paper sticker affixed to our field radios; it read "Charlie is Listening." That means that Victor Charlie, phonetic language for the Viet Cong, was monitoring our communications at all times. As a compliance officer, do not think that your are not under observation; your opposition definitely knows who you are.  


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