back to article Samsung: We will remotely brick smart TVs looted from our warehouse

Samsung is remotely bricking smart TVs it said were looted from one of its South African warehouses amid violent unrest in the nation. On July 8, rioting kicked off in KwaZulu-Natal, the home province of former President Jacob Zuma, as he started a 15-month stretch behind bars for contempt of court. Shopping malls and other …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems pretty lenient

    In the old South Africa it would have remotely triggered a flame-thrower

    1. the hatter

      Re: Seems pretty lenient

      They tried that a few generations of smartphone ago - not a formal rollout, but random user tests showed a less than positive response for samsung products unexpectedly erupting in a fireball.

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Seems pretty lenient

      Yep, South Africa, the country that bought you the Blaster

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Seems pretty lenient

        "The Blaster (also called the "BMW Flamethrower") was a 1998 invention by South African inventor Charl Fourie designed to provide a defence against carjackings."

        Wikipedia claims Fourie to have invented the Blaster. That is not correct. I saw a piece of news on exactly the same kind of device in the 80s. Don't believe everything on the Internet, kids ;)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seems pretty lenient

      I am not so sure that South Africa is really any different for most poor people. Violence and corruption seem as endemic as they ever were.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Seems pretty lenient

        Yes but now they are being fscked by black politicians Gaurdian readers don't have to feel bad about them.

      2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        Re: Seems pretty lenient

        "I am not so sure that South Africa is really any different for most poor people."

        In Seattle, the poor people burn the cars. Including occupied police cars.

  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge


    While I can appreciate their desire to prevent stolen goods being used, I'm rather more concerned that they are able to brick them remotely. Apart from themselves bricking the wrong ones in error (and don't say it can't happen) there is also the risk of some script-kiddie finding out how to do it and considering it great fun to wipe out a city's worth.

    Surely, they are able to identify where they are (at least by IP) when they are working.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm

      It is FAR more interesting that Samsung is "keeping with our values to leverage the power of technology to resolve societal challenges" by bricking TV's stolen from THEM, but not from everyone or anyone else, as the statistics linked shows that housebreaking is the #1 theft in SA.

      So you steal from me [Samsung], we'll brick you.

      You steal from our customers? Well, err, we'll get back to you on that "societal change" bit sometime soon...

      Typical speaking out the side of your mouth, corporate mealy-mouthed double-standard-speak

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmmm

        I disagree - Samsung being the owner needs no further proof that it is stolen. There is no question as they have an authenticated and verifiable list of stolen TV serial numbers, no other party is involved.

        For the wider world, it is a customer support nightmare. "I bought it, paid cash", "it was a gift", "the shop owner is lying" etc

        See the poor feedback from their phone experiment- they tried.

        maybe this is something for blockchain.

        1. Snake Silver badge

          Re: registration

          Many devices have "Please register your device for better warranty and customer support!" claims within their documentation.

          It is simple: You legitimately registered your product right after purchase, verifying your immediate ownership. You now reported it as stolen, from the authorized registrar - we can brick it for you.

          What is so hard with that??

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: registration

            Second hand sales? This is not a small percentage for a product like a TV. Then there are things like divorce, some mentioned financed purchases.

            There is no verifiable way to know that the registration information is current (or accurate at all for that matter).

            TVs aren't as personal as phones are. That's what is hard with that. They are low margin so adding customer support overheads is rarely justified.

            The worst part here IMO is that registration is becoming *proof* of ownership. That is a minefield. If it was registration done as part of the device onboarding perhaps less troubling. It would need to deal with returns.

            Samsung ID and Find My (Our?) TV sounds workable.

            Now if you bought a second hand TV, what is the secure ID transfer process, after the fact?

            It would have to err on the legitimate owners side - if transfer is easy, UI lockdown is risky to invoke and useless (as the ownership data is more likely to be incorrect), if transfers are hard, UI lockdowns can be done safely.

            It could deter second hand sales, so there are $$$$ there to be made though..

            1. Snake Silver badge

              Re: registration

              But if all that is true...why have remote bricking in the first place?? Having it at all incurs, from the customer viewpoint, all the negatives you mention.

              Therefore, exactly, what was the point of creating the technology if Samsung was never looking to implement the tech towards customer support in the first place?? If Samsung is unwilling to allow customers to use the technology for their personal benefit, say after a robbery, what functionally does it therefore provide?

              Except for a function that only SAMSUNG itself has a use for...??

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: registration

                For service/dealer use only. Cases where it is legally required, or where there is no ambiguity regarding ownership.

                For the latter it is just Samsung right now. Could also be for in store use (triggers on another WiFi network name for eg). Might be part of the demo mode app for all we know.

                They likely can turn it off remotely for customer support reasons.

                It just isn't a consumer feature, which is what you started this thread with, and I gave reasons why it isn't simple to just open it up like that.

          2. Down not across

            Re: registration

            It is simple: You legitimately registered your product right after purchase, verifying your immediate ownership. You now reported it as stolen, from the authorized registrar - we can brick it for you.

            When you say "register", you mean subscribe to spam and additional tracking and exploitation?

            How many people really register their TV, create a vendor account etc? I certainly never have, as the manufacturers have repeatedly proven not to be trusted, so why give them even more data to abuse.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Everybody can do that

      If you have ANYTHING that gets updates via the internet, it can be bricked remotely. It comes down to whether you believe they would act on it in a way that hurts you.

      Remotely bricking known to be stolen devices does not hurt you, unless you make a habit of buying "brand new, unopened!" stuff on eBay from a new seller for a price suspiciously lower than you can find anywhere else.

      1. sketharaman

        Re: Everybody can do that

        True dat. I've heard of banks that brick your car / smartphone if you're late on your car / consumer loan repayments.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Everybody can do that

          Barclays bank bricked my account for several days until I realised something was wrong. They couldn't be bothered to ring my account registered landline number to check if my large transfer was intended. Their excuse was that their "potential fraud" system could only send texts to mobile numbers.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Everybody can do that

            calls from the bank are a key phishing method. It is good the bank never uses it, and sticks to letters or texts.

            Even texts are iffy if they have urls.

            Bank app notifications are probably the future.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Everybody can do that

              "It is good the bank never uses it, and sticks to letters or texts"

              A phone call from my bank would have been perfectly safe. All they had to do was tell me the amount and recipient for my verification - which apparently is what their mobile text messages say. At this rate every time I pay a bill of a few thousand pounds they are going to block my account.

              Bank apps means having a smart phone and a SIM contract - a not insignificant addition to my monthly budget.

            2. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Everybody can do that

              "calls from the bank are a key phishing method"

              If the banks would simply tell you that a large transaction is pending and if you didn't initiate it, you should visit your local branch or log in to your account online, that would be fine. If people would understand that if the bank calls, they aren't going to do anything other than notify you, that could be fine. The same goes for emails with links. Paypal does this all of the time. They even keep trying to "authorize" a device I've logged in with which I do not want to happen. What if that device is stolen? What they should do is notify and leave it up to the customer to enter the URL of the bank themselves from their own records and review the account. I don't "do" text so that's a non-starter. Plenty of my friends get all sorts of phishing attempts through text. So many sometimes that it's a worthless service to have.

              1. Charles 9

                Re: Everybody can do that

                "If the banks would simply tell you that a large transaction is pending and if you didn't initiate it, you should visit your local branch or log in to your account online, that would be fine."

                Until the ONLY means of contact for the bank is an app that can be Trojaned (because the last local branch of ANY bank within driving distance closed years back).

                "Paypal does this all of the time. They even keep trying to "authorize" a device I've logged in with which I do not want to happen. What if that device is stolen? What they should do is notify and leave it up to the customer to enter the URL of the bank themselves from their own records and review the account."

                If people have memories SO terrible they can't remember a simple password, what does that say about a whole blankin' website address, meaning they'll probably have to search for it and get hit by a fake site...

      2. Dave559 Silver badge

        Re: Everybody can do that

        I thought that most (not-so-)smart TVs tended to effectively brick themselves after a couple of years anyway? This app doesn't get updated, that app doesn't get updated, a TV channel switches to a different app or technology and leaves owners of existing TVs in the lurch, etc.

        Before you know it, your 'smart' TV is thoroughly lobotomised and you wonder why you didn't just buy a normal, cheaper, TV, and stick a TV stick of some flavour into a spare HDMI port?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Everybody can do that

          Yeah, Samsung products really don't need to be actively bricked. It's built in feature.

        2. Ragarath

          Re: Everybody can do that

          Tell that to my energy hungry 42" Panasonic plasma that I still refuse to take off the wall and replace.

          At the time Plasma was the bees knees and LCD was, well crap.

          Still shows a darn good picture too. Must be 12 - 13 years old now.

    3. EricM

      Re: Hmmm

      Whatever the original intention of Samsung - and security threats like hacks aside - a remote kill switch hands over a lot of power over the user/owner of the device to the maufacturer.

      For the lifetime of the product.

      Once implementing such kill-switches is regarded as accepted behavior, this power can also be used in for example commercial disputes such as conflichts during a lease or rent of the TV.

      Or establish restrictions on re-selling used devices.

      In everything more complex than a toaster ...

      The number of ways this kind of power can be abused is staggering ...

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm

        You're assuming the code has to already exist in the device. They could put up a new version of firmware that's identical to the old one which contained no remote bricking support but this one upon bootup checks for a range of serial numbers and if it is not in that range completes a normal boot.

        The support for that "remote bricking" was built in by virtue of the fact that out of the box hardware is typically configured to check for firmware updates first thing. There doesn't need to be explicit bricking code.

        ANY company, no matter how much you may trust them, has the ability to remote brick any hardware that can be updated over the internet. So you can worry about that "staggering power" not just from Samsung, but also Google, Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, Dell, HP, Linksys, Tesla, and on and on to every vendor of devices ranging from $10 strings of Christmas lights to $1 million pieces of farm equipment. If it can be updated, it can be bricked. Occasionally not even deliberately.

        The one "vendor" that needs this capability that maybe doesn't have it is the DoD. The gear that was given to the Afghan army that's now in the hands of the Taliban would be a lot less useful if it were possible to send a kill signal via GPS satellites. Who knows, maybe it is and they don't want to expose that ability except in the most dire of circumstances.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Missing ONE thing

          You're missing the key difference.... the unique ID is per device instead, instead of per-class of device.

          Most devices upgrade from version X to version Y, not CUSTOMER Z Version X to Y.

          Upgrading a device does not require targetted specific per customer tracking, that they're doing here. I bet they also link the registration for the guarantee to the usage data they get from those devices too.

          Samsung here have not only stuck a serial number on the device, they're transmitting it as a tracking id to their servers during the upgrade and providing per-user targetted software. In this case it bricks the device, but it could do many things to their targetted customers and their targetted LANs.

          Since they don't get informed when the item is sold, it will also be a GDPR violation. That tracking is done per user.

          I assume this was done so they can use that for profit. e.g. sell the bricking to a rental company, the person is behind renting a TV, brick it to force them to pay.

          Dealer behind in an invoice? Pay now or we'll brick all the stock in your shop.

          Business TV lease for commercial TV signage.... late on the invoice... brick.

          But the possibilities once you've rolled it out secretly to every customer are endless.... so if a country decides to stop you watching some channels, or wants to know who watches those specific channels, this tracking stuff lends itself perfectly to that.

          1. Waseem Alkurdi

            Re: Missing ONE thing

            Technically, they could be sending one payload for all devices as usual and in compliance with all privacy rules, but do the bricking at the client-side with a serial number lookup.

            1. Richard Pennington 1

              Re: Missing ONE thing

              Does that turn Samsung into serial killers?

              1. John 104

                Re: Missing ONE thing

                @Richard Pennington 1

                Only if they connect to the internet via serial cable...

            2. DS999 Silver badge

              Re: Missing ONE thing

              I don't think that's "technically" what they're doing, it is almost certain that's what they're doing. So long as your product tracking works well enough that you know the serial numbers of stolen equipment, you can brick it.

              And I am fine with that. It only affects crooks, and those dumb enough to buy from crooks. Anything that makes stolen devices worthless is a win for society, as who is going to steal things they can't profit from?

              This is also why you see serial numbers of components linked to a specific device. Otherwise they could take apart of the bricked device and sell it as parts. Not sure if there's really a market for that for TVs, because no one tries to replace the display panel of their TV if the cat knocks it over. You just buy a new TV, and put it on the wall this time so the cat can't knock it over! But theft and breaking down into parts is definitely a thing for phones and laptops.

          2. Electronics'R'Us

            Electronic serial numbers

            Electronic serial numbers (basically a pre-programmed device with usually a 64 bit ID) have been a thing for decades and have a lot of decent use cases; this is actually one of them (in a way) but it does open up a very large can of worms.

            Great for tracking whether your goods arrived somewhere but as with all technology, it is agnostic and can be used for nefarious purposes.

            I have designed these things into products for very good reasons in the past as there are clear benefits - automatic scanning of device ID to eliminate human error at manufacture or repair return comes to mind, a use case I have had.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Electronic serial numbers

              "I have designed these things into products for very good reasons in the past as there are clear benefits - automatic scanning of device ID to eliminate human error at manufacture or repair return comes to mind, a use case I have had."

              At the warehousing and sales level a serialized RFID that has the serial number of the product can be used for inventory and routing. It would be very expensive to ship a container full of products to a region where that product won't work. Or even just a pallet that gets mis-directed.

          3. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Missing ONE thing

            "so if a country decides to stop you watching some channels,"

            In some countries the government may want the populace to watch their TV's at a particular time to get instructions from their beloved leader. Firmware can be updated so TV's all turn on, set the volume sufficiently high and to a particular channel and can't be switched off. Unplugging would lead to a message being sent to the local office so the people in that household can be rounded up and brought to a facility where they can be specially shown that broadcast while under supervision and given a test afterwards (along with some re-education).

        2. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

          Re: Hmmm

          Well I imagine the DoD they dont have this ability, why? A black hat hacker decides to brick all american kit in a combat zone....

          Of course why not put into kit they supply to others. But if the others know this they wouldnt buy American Kit ever.

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: Hmmm

            How is the black hat hacker going to get the GPS satellites to broadcast a kill code using the military encrypted channel with a special key (perhaps even a key linked to the serial number of the device you want to brick?)

            I imagine they could protect the encryption key needed for that kill code VERY well, in some safe deep in the bowels of the Pentagon. It wouldn't be something a hacker could get even if he got into the DoD's classified network.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmmm

          Though with the DoD, sending a "kill" command is less likely to brick the device, as it is to set off hidden explosives in it.

        4. Stork Silver badge

          Re: Hmmm

          I think it’s difficult these days to get a truly daft telly. We got a number of LGs for our rental houses as they had satellite receivers built in. In principle they were smart but I never told them the WiFi password and they worked just fine.

          Would that not be the same with the Samsungs?

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: Hmmm

            Sure I very much doubt you HAVE to connect them to a network. The thing is, most people will. That makes it hard to sell stolen gear if you have to tell your buyer "whatever you do, don't ever connect it to the internet, even if you want to update a broken Netflix app.

        5. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Hmmm

          "The one "vendor" that needs this capability that maybe doesn't have it is the DoD."

          Governments are really bad at keeping secrets so the bricking code could backfire in the worst possible way and at the worst possible time. The bigger problem was pulling out of Afghanistan with no plan to remove anything useful to the enemy. They got uniforms, weapons, ammo, high tech, vehicles and helicopters. That's a serious load of incompetence on the US's part.

      2. Nifty Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm

        Patent dispute forces Samsung to brick 1m of its customers TVs...

    4. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

      Re: Hmmm

      You know that the moment this hit the internet, bunches of unscrupulous hackers just basically said to themselves "challenge accepted". The only question they're probably asking themselves is whether they sell the information to Samsung's rivals or Samsung themselves. Either way, the revelation that it can even be done seems like a bad idea to me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmmm

        The attack surface is not greater because of this and it is pretty easy to detect such activity without any manufacturer announcements - it's just wifi or ethernet.

        If you can compromise a secure, authenticated channel (let's say they use TLS1.3), then a basic FW upgrade is all it takes to do a whole lot of damage. Just FF out the flash.

        This is true regardless of a existence of a serial nr based functionality block - they are not bricking it as the term is normally used. It will probably flash a customer service number to support incorrect blocks.

      2. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm

        I don't see how being able to brick something makes it more vulnerable. The method for bricking is based on the ability to update firmware. If you can force your own firmware onto someone else's TV you've already got the ability to brick it and much more.

    5. RegGuy1 Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm

      If you've done nothing wrong, you've nothing to fear. That's what my brexit-voting neighbour tells me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmmm

        Haha, what's his explanation when you're sat in your car and a drunk driver with a HGV is driving straight at you at a 100 mph?

        What of all the genocides in history?

        Nothing to fear?

        Dumb arrogant nonsense - sounds like a BoJo soundbite. As much substance to it as a fart.

    6. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm

      I'm rather more concerned that they are able to brick them remotely

      For me this justifies two things:

      * do not connect TVs to the internet (use a box of your own choosing with HDMI or component output)

      * do not purchase TVs from companies that CAN actually do this

      Last thing _I_ want is for my legit purchased hardware to "accidentally" be BRICKED like this. So you companies who TREAT YOUR CUSTOMERS LIKE POTENTIAL THIEVES, TAKE NOTICE.

      At least ONE potential customer WILL NOT BUY YOUR SCHTUFF UNTIL YOU STOP IT!!!

    7. BebopWeBop

      Re: Hmmm

      Although just making them plain old screens might add to their value with Samsung.....

    8. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm

      "there is also the risk of some script-kiddie finding out how to do it and considering it great fun to wipe out a city's worth."

      This is the worry I have with EV's that can be pwned remotely. Forget the script kiddie, a more "organized" group could hold a big city hostage by threatening to brick a bunch of cars during a Friday rush hour or at a major road nexus/bridge/tunnel.

      I'm not installing one of those IoT thermostats at my house. Another insecure device that could wind up costing me a whole pile of bank notes.

      1. Dog Eatdog

        Re: Hmmm

        "This is the worry I have with EV's that can be pwned remotely."

        Exactly right. Tesla can unlock my car remotely (and a service technician did once use this functionality to get into my parked car when I was not there).

        What if Tesla got hacked? thousands - nay millions - of them could be stolen or held for ransom.

  3. nintendoeats Silver badge

    At this point, the smart thief would disable the wi-fi module and sell it as a network-disabled device.

    (would make them rather easier to find and trace by scanning classified ads though)

    1. Charles 9

      And the smarter manufacturer will key the device to brick if it doesn't detect every module that's supposed to be there (chain of trust being one way). Better, declare that the device has been physically tampered, meaning any warranty on it is null and void...

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Just unplug the antenna from the wifi card. The TV will only know that it's not receiving a wifi signal, and if they bricked every TV that was in a wifi blackspot they'd catch too many legitimate owners.

        1. Xalran

          even simpler : don't configure any WIFI.

          You need to at least tell the TV which WIFI network to connect to ( and if you're not dumb provide the password needed for that specific network ) before that TV can connect to Internet.

          If you don't provide those there's no way it can connect, so there's no way it can be bricked.

          1. MadocOwain

            Unfortunately the TV is barely useable as you have to accept an EULA before being allowed to watch your content.. and the EULA requires internet connectivity to clear. Went through this a few weeks ago with my dad's new Samsung. Very disappointed in them for forcing the EULA for a TV my dad will never ever connect to the internet with or use any of the built-in apps.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Worse still, in order to activate the FreeView application in some TVs, you have to have a strong enough TV signal via an aerial that it can detect the region data in the MUX broadcast. And it needs to check that every time you start the application. Kind of buggers the idea of having a smart TV for those bits of the house where you can't get a good signal from the terrestrial digital TV masts but the WiFi / Internet signal is OK.

            2. Xalran

              That makes it a pretty good reason not to buy or loot a Samsung TV...

              If you can't use a TV without an internet connection, it's bad product Design... for decades TVs didn't need Internet, so why would it be needed now.

        2. DS999 Silver badge


          Consumer devices don't have detachable antennas inside. They're soldered on. You can undo that, but that's a lot of work to remove the back of the TV and who knows what else to access the wifi module.

          It is going to be harder to sell a smart TV as "brand new" if it doesn't have working wifi, since almost all consumers will activate that the minute they turn it on. When that fails, they'll call Samsung, find out they acquired stolen property, and go back to whoever sold it for a refund. Unless it was sold out of the back of a truck, they'll get that refund either via their credit card company or Paypal.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: unplug?

            "Unless it was sold out of the back of a truck, they'll get that refund either via their credit card company or Paypal."

            Anybody selling dodgy kit from their boot isn't going to take plastic. It will be cash.

            1. Charles 9

              Re: unplug?

              "Anybody selling dodgy kit from their boot isn't going to take plastic. It will be cash."

              I long for the day I read someone paying out for dodgy kit...and then admitting later on that the money was fake as well...

    2. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

      I was about to say that the looters aren't smart people. But then there was a report of looting at a warehouse where some of the looters arrived in expensive cars and a 3 km long queue formed in the road.

      That reminds me of an accident on the N1 at the John Vorster bridge one morning where a small truck carrying boxes of mango's overturned. Traffic was an absolute nightmare because people parked their X5's and LandRovers in the middle of the highway to go and help themselves at some free fruit. One would think that someone who can afford an X5 can afford to buy a box of fruit as well.

      1. Snapper

        Perhaps they got to own an X5 by having that mentality?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          In the Kingsley Amis novel "I Want It Now" - the observation is made about a parsimonious buffet spread not being the pleb guest's idea of luxury food. The millionaire host tells him that becoming rich isn't difficult - it is staying rich that needs continuous effort.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "it is staying rich that needs continuous effort."

            Pretty much the starting plot of "The Other Sinbad". Sinbad the sailor goes to foreign shores, has adventures, makes a fortune, and returns home. Lives an insanely lavish lifestyle, including parties where rare and expensive foods are tossed around like cheap snacks. One day realizes he's almost broke, sells his last few possessions, and buys a ship. GOTO 10...

      2. Commswonk

        a small truck carrying boxes of mango's overturned.

        Boxes of mango's what, exactly?

        You have failed to tell us what their property was.

        1. adam 40 Silver badge

          No, he told us what it was (mangoes) AND that the truck was owned by the local butcher's.

          1. David 132 Silver badge

            Given that we’re talking about “mango’s”, I think it was more likely the local gre’engr’ocer’s.

        2. TRT Silver badge

          Mangoes into a pub and says to the landlord...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Mangoes into a pub and says to the landlord...

            What cocktails do you do?

            And the landlord says, "Get out! We don't serve fruit cocktails in here."

      3. hoola Silver badge

        Look at what happened when that cargo ship went down of the South Coast. Hoards of people descended on the beach to take anything they could.

        BMW did something with the motorbikes that were stolen, blacklisting them for warranty and support. Whilst this may not be a wholly customer friendly approach the instances of looting and theft of brand new goods ultimately cost everyone money:

        Increased insurance.

        Increased product prices.

        The only winners are the people who steal and then sell them. Those who buy these sorts of "too good to be true" items are equally part of the problem.

        So much is connected to the Internet now anyway that it really is no surprise that this sort of action is being taken. Whether you agree is a different thing but if it starts making stolen items less desirable maybe it is a good thing. I think a lot depends on whether the action sticks with the theft of unsold goods or becomes more widely available as facility to be used as part of crime fighting. The first is easy, the second much more challenging and open to abuse.

        Having said that there are plenty of devices that can be remote wiped or bricked as part of theft loss security by the owner.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Salvage of flotsam is not theft, and just because the shipper pretends it is, does not make it so.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            If it's in the UK, any ship wreck is still owned by the original owner. So any removal of cargo, including flotsam, jetsam that fell overboard etc, has to be reported to the HMG within 28 days.

            The salvager could then be entitled to a reward (but must return the items to the owner if requested), or potentially be allowed to keep it if the owner of the wreck doesn't claim it.

            If no one claims the wreck itself after 12 months, it becomes the property of HMG. But same rules above apply. i.e. The HMG would then own all the salvage from the wreck, so could ask for it back at that point, assuming it was declared by the salvager of course.

            If the salvager simply keeps it, without declaring it to HMG, then under UK law, that is theft.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              That's a carefully crafted statement there, but methinks its crafted to mislead, since UK law must be the same as international including salvage.

              Salvage is not theft, the salvage fee is 10-25% of the value of the goods. 30% for environmental damage. An arbiter decides this, its not a nice gift for your time that's some sort of nice gesture.

              Salvage of flotsam is legal.

              You explained a penalty for failing to report the goods to the receiver of the wreck (a government body) within a reasonable time as if it was theft, but its not. That will be the same in the UK.


              Yes it is the same, not theft. It's a violation of 237 (2) of the 1995 Merchant Shipping Act. A £2500 fine max and forfeit the salvage right.

              "237 Provisions as respects cargo, etc.

              (1)Where a vessel is wrecked, stranded, or in distress at any place on or near the coasts of the United Kingdom or any tidal water within United Kingdom waters, any cargo or other articles belonging to or separated from the vessel which are washed on shore or otherwise lost or taken from the vessel shall be delivered to the receiver.

              (2)If any person (whether the owner or not)—

              (a)conceals or keeps possession of any such cargo or article, or

              (b)refuses to deliver any such cargo or article to the receiver or to any person authorised by the receiver to require delivery, he shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale."

              1. jtaylor

                The act of salvage is legal, but does not grant ownership to the finder. It's legal to grab that bottle of whisky from the water. (I didn't know this). If you then turn it over to law enforcement or the original receiver, great. If you dig a hole in your garden and bury it, that's illegal.

                Flotsam is material from a wreck, and jetsam is material that is intentionally cast overboard. I guessed that these would be handled very differently, but it seems, at least in UK law, all salvage regardless of circumstance is treated similarly. Maybe that just avoids argument.

                I just learned a lot! Thank you!

                1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

                  Re: If you dig a hole in your garden and bury it, that's illegal.

                  That could be offset somewhat by your plea of insanity.

                  1. TRT Silver badge

                    Re: If you dig a hole in your garden and bury it, that's illegal.

                    Show an old sea dog a bone...

  4. Mike 16

    Who is daft enough... connect a "Smart" TV to the internet? If one could still purchase a non-smart (and thus non-hostile) TV, there would be no need to wear a ski mask and a voice changer while watching anything disliked by this government (or the next)

    1. nintendoeats Silver badge

      Re: Who is daft enough...

      I am with you, but unfortunately we are in the minority.

    2. Contrex

      Re: Who is daft enough...

      You can buy non-smart TVs (updated May 2021)

      1. John Klos

        Re: Who is daft enough...

        Any "smart TV" can be a non-"smart TV" - just don't connect it to the Internet at all.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Who is daft enough...

          It's just that until you do connect it - it just displays a Samsung logo and a message telling you to connect it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Who is daft enough...

            Really? My Samsung TV works fine - never been connected to the internet.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Who is daft enough...

              well, mine too, but perhaps things have changed for 'better' in the last few years? I bought mine about 4 years ago, perhaps now you do HAVE TO connect it to the internets to make it work? If so, sooner rather than later, this will be applicable for 100% of new tv sets, all brands.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Who is daft enough...

          "just don't connect it to the Internet at all."

          Until you find it has it's own wireless connection, possibly simply by looking for open WiFi services or a built-in "mobile" connection. Remember Amazons WhisperNet in Kindles? Cheap (essentially free to the user), slow, but gets the job done.

          1. Waseem Alkurdi

            Re: Who is daft enough...

            Also: Tesla cars - they have a "free" SIM card in there (the recent ones have an embedded, non-removable SIM)

        3. nagi

          Re: Who is daft enough...

          Unfortunately, another patent Samsung helds is about creating an ad-hoc mesh network to get around that. So in the not-so-far future it's enough if your neighbour connects theirs to the internet...

          1. Oh Matron!

            Re: Who is daft enough...

            has been done right, Samsung have put a machine cert on the device, so that any TV to Samsung HQ traffic is signed and encrypted.

            However, Samsung do not have a great track record with security.... Their Face ID stuff on their mobes used to be conned with a printed photo of someone from facebook (My role used to involve testing this stuff), so MITM attacks, especially if it's looking for open networks, are inevitable.

        4. tip pc Silver badge

          Re: Who is daft enough...

          It won’t be long before 5G modems are built into stuff and these things will phone home regardless of if you’ve connected or not.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who is daft enough...

      Someone who wants to install a firmware update?

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Who is daft enough...

        Somone who wants "YouTube" to work on the TV built in app, so rational goes maybe a Firmware update will fix it.

        It didn't, it was the TV, bloody thing had reset its date\time.

  5. keith_w

    I thought it was the TVs they disliked that they bricked.

  6. John Klos

    Be careful with bricking

    It wasn't very long ago that Samsung inadvertently bricked huge numbers of Blu-Ray players due to the most basic of bugs in an XML parser:

    Samsung's ineptitude is why I tell people who buy Samsung TVs to simply use them as displays. Get a Roku or Apple TV, and don't connect the Samsung at all. Problem solved!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Be careful with bricking

      All of my TV's even though they are smart, I use an external streaming device. The external units just do a better job. The menus are faster, they boot faster after updates, etc. The entire architecture is just better. I even use a Logitech Harmony hub with remote, so it makes switching between the inputs and devices a breeze. Push the action I want on the screen and the hub takes care of it. Now the TV is connected to the network but for the sole purpose of the hub communicating via Ethernet to the TV and that the TV's are blocked outbound at the firewall. The Harmony hub is also wired and powered via PoE.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Be careful with bricking

        My Sony 4k 42" smart monitor (TV) is fast. It's 4yrs old and still getting updates.

        Could do with a few more hdmi connections.

        Bought it as a large cheap 4k monitor for testing software developed for a contract... wrote the cost off on completion.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Be careful with bricking

      That was just a firmware error, and has nothing to do with the ability to brick stolen devices.

      But the fact something like that could happen means they sure must have skimped on testing that firmware update!

  7. Detective Emil

    "In keeping with our values to leverage the power of technology to resolve societal challenges …"

    Please excuse me. I seem to have mislaid my will to live.

    1. M. T. Ness

      Re: "In keeping with our values to the of technology to resolve societal challenges …"

      Could you please wait until tomorrow?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "In keeping with our values to leverage the power of technology to resolve societal challenges"

      I found it. It was right beside my barf-in-my-own-mouth bag. Not sure why I needed a bag for that, but there you are.

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Bye bye Samsung

    So you can brick my TV at will ?

    Fuck off, Samsung. I'm happy you can preserve your investments, but I will not buy or use any equipment that functions under someone else's orders, or with someone else's permission.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bye bye Samsung

      It's for full compatibility with Apple devices ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bye bye Samsung

      Not just connected devices. This crap has a knockon effect.

      I held Samsung in high regard, then their tablets started getting funny with Microsoft and Bixby was forced onto me, and the Samsung TV I bought would phone home on every change of channel (and always starts up on the Samsung TV IPTV channel too now), and I decided I had enough of Samsung.

      It was like a switch in my head said 'enough'.

      So, I need to upgrade a fridge, the old one was Samsung and cheap, I decided I'd try a Chinese one for a change. Hisense, 66% the price, all glass shelves no Korean plastic, and shock horror, works perfectly and reliably.

      The next vacuum cleaner that breaks, I won't replace it with a Samsung.

      These are not connected devices, I just don't feel like Samsung is a quality brand to me anymore, and so why pay a premium for it?

      1. DartfordMan

        Re: Bye bye Samsung

        Haha you THINK they aren't internet enabled, but wait until the vacuum cleaner publishes pictures of your poor cleaning strategy to further Samsung's desire to 'resolve societal challenges'.

      2. Waseem Alkurdi

        Re: Bye bye Samsung

        Perhaps Hisense exports much premium stuff to the UK, but the only fridge in my experience not to do five years of service (which is heresy for a white-goods item) was a Hisense.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bye bye Samsung

          A quick search of Amazon says Samsung UK fridges have 2 years warranty, which is the EU minimum (and I assume still the UK minimum):



          Does the fridge come with a warranty


          Yes. It comes with a two year manufacturer’s warranty."

          But also, HOLY FOOK you are paying way over the odds for stuff there in the UK. I mean like double the Thai price. That Hisense fridge freezer I bought was the equivalent of about £177, the cheapest I can find in Amazon UK is more like £350!

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Bye bye Samsung

            23 year old Bosch Fridge Freezer here

      3. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Bye bye Samsung

        The only Samsung products I have a really good opinion of are their old HDDs and their SSDs. They were excellent.

        Their phones really annoy me, so much so I am prepared to buy my own phone to chuck work SIM in.

        I do like Bosch kitchen stuff and Sony living room stuff.

    3. fireflies

      Re: Bye bye Samsung

      In a sense, that's pretty much every smart device. Every Windows or Apple-based computer... if it connects to the internet, it will likely have auto-updates and some form of "dial home" function.

      Sure you can jail-break your smartphone and remove all the manufacturer's/reseller's apps that are otherwise untouchable while voiding the warranty in doing so - but really, you could do that with any device if you had the knowhow.

      Smart Tech has long since taken control out of our hands - this is nothing new.

      Block the IP address on the router so the TV can't contact Samsung servers (hope it's not a BT hub etc. as the ISP can totally communicate remotely with those too).

      1. DrewWyatt

        Re: Bye bye Samsung

        As an aside, it looks like if you unlock the bootloader on a Samsung Z fold 3, that will disable the cameras. So you can choose, have your bloatware and a camera, or have control over your device, but no camera.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Bye bye Samsung

          I detest Samsung bloatware. If it was my choice, I would choose a different brand phone.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bye bye Samsung

      From experience of Samsung fridge freezers you don't need an internet connection for the device to brick.

    5. VooDooTooDo

      Re: Bye bye Samsung

      I gather that you don't own any mobile phone or an iPad then? They can be bricked remotely with a telephone call to Network Provider or someone that has an iCloud login on the device. I believe Google also implementing a "Find My" like function in upcoming versions of Android which may have a user enabled automatic remote locking function in case of lost or stolen.

    6. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Bye bye Samsung

      Err, in the article it is only affecting stolen items that have come from their warehouse. Pretty much any modern device is now connected to the Internet to provide functionality the many in society appear to see as critical to life so Samsung will not be unique.

      Hell, Apple can probably brick every piece of iStuff out there if it is connected. They have just not publicly said so. If someone stole a load of new iPhones will they actually work?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bye bye Samsung

        In the case of phones, all phones, there are already plenty of countries maintaining a list of IMEI that are not allowed to connect to their networks because they were stolen.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All your tv belong to us

    I like my samsung TV although every software version seems to make it less responsive and you feel you have lost something quality wise in the performance.

    I dream of finding some mythical way to put the original software version on that worked so well.

    If like a friends Samsung mine stops working after the 5y warranty period I will assume its something they do and dig the dumb old plasma out and watch less tv to balance the green credentials.

    They seem to be trying to be too clever and it will bite them on the ass.

  10. JimJimmyJimson

    This seems normal

    I can remotely disable my iPhone - I can remotely do stuff to my car - and I can remotely shut down a whole bunch of electronics in my house. I like being able to do this - but I'm not so naive to assume that the manufacturer also can't do these things to my equipment if it so chooses. So I can't see how this is any different.

    1. Julz

      Re: This seems normal

      I guess you have to think about what it is you have actually bought.

    2. the hatter

      Re: This seems normal

      The difference is that you can't disable your samsung tv if it's stolen. If samsung's property is stolen, they'll press a button so it's got no resale value... but they won't let you press the button when your property is stolen, even though clearly that could be an option.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This seems normal

      Making lemonade there I see:

      Wireshark a Samsung TV, and you'll never connect it to the internet ever again. It doesn't surprise me they've adding 'bricking' to it. They have confused their users with their inventory.

      Now it comes down to which lobby wants to buy those users viewing history and bricking rights.

      1. Andy 97

        Re: This seems normal

        Data analysis companies that have their SDK added to streaming applications and television factory build operating systems for years.

        During regular use, telemetry from the player is sent to a data warehouse, it's analysed, sold to other vendors and merchants, where it can be used to justify advert placement, commissioning etc.

        They'll tell you it's to ascertain the quality of playback, but this is only the sideshow of what it's really all about.

        How much data is gathered? Depends on the player, but even skipping playback or adjusting the volume can be captured.

        Fun exercise: See what happens if you block address ranges you notice your device is sending to.

  11. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    Can they come and brick my Samsung Smart TV as well please? At least it'll stop the fucking useless, intensely annoying and utterly illegal (in the EU) ads popping up on the Smart Hub bar which I didn't ask for*, didn't sign up for* and didn't agree to*. Samsung have become scummy bastards who'll sell their grandmas for a nickel; I used to like them and their stuff, but their approach to customers recently has been one of total contempt.

    * There's always at least one commentard who says "well that's what you get when you tick the license agreement you didn't read" - well I did read it. In fact I still have it from when I bought the TV. And there is nothing in it about ads. And the electronic EULA for the Smart features doesn't count, because it's embedded in the TV and thus you need to buy, open, install and register it before you can read it. Which is illegal in the EU. And if you reject the EULA you can't use ANY of the smart features at all, which is also illegal in the EU because the ads aren't necessary for the functionality, and they also don't form a component of the financial transaction with a benefit to the end user, because I paid full price for the TV with no subsidy for ad functionality.

    1. Julz

      So, why are they available for sale?

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        @Julz presumably they've updated the T&Cs so TVs bought now aren't technically illegal. The difference is that mine was purchased in 2018, before they got it into their heads that there was an unpillaged revenue stream there - and crucially before they included reference to it in their T&Cs.

        Whether it's in the T&Cs or not determines whether it's illegal, or just immoral and vile.

    2. David 132 Silver badge

      Ah, but remember, they're not stuffing adverts onto your TV. That would be sleazy and disreputable. No, no, no. They're "leveraging their rich ecosystem of consumer-focused technology to bring you an unrivaled and carefully-curated selection of exciting offers from valued partners and major brands, at no extra cost to you, their valued customer, to keep your experience with their products fresh and dynamic".

      I could go on in that vein, but honestly, I've thrown up twice over my keyboard already.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        At least you have the good grace to write facetiously. Samsung's initial email back to me was flippant, disrespectful, and - from a legal perspective - risky.

        "Hi! (smiley face emoji) It is not possible to completely disable these ads. The personalized ads should actually benefit the total user experience. I am sorry that you feel differently. All the best! ^Theresa"

        By the way from a 'let's have some fun with this' perspective, I'm working with a notary public at the moment on an unrelated matter; I looked up the names of Samsung's in-house counsel here (on LinkedIn, natch) and managed to convince my notary to write a legal letter to Samsung on my behalf. She's not allowed to actually progress anything legally and will only write a "My client has instructed me" letter stating my case, but my sincere hope is that it puts enough of the shits up them to wipe the 'smiley' bit off their response and actually consider I might just be pissed off enough to do something about it.

        1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

          Sounds good! If you get anywhere maybe El Reg would consider an article on the story?

          1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

            Would be amazing if el Reg would pick up the issue! Any mods/admins reading this, feel free to reach out.

            1. Dave559 Silver badge

              Lord Elpuss v Samsung

              Good for you for trying to fight back against this sort of ad-pimping shit!

              If The Reg wouldn't be willing/able to help follow up, perhaps NOYB (None of Your Business: Max Schrems' campaign group) might be?

              1. Bongwater

                Re: Lord Elpuss v Samsung

                He has my sword!

        2. ThatOne Silver badge

          > that it puts enough of the shits up them to wipe the 'smiley' bit off their response

          And what then? It's not like those customer-facing Muppets have the power to do more then to blather meaningless phrases. As for the corporate bigwigs in S. Korea who determine the worldwide commercial strategy of Samsung, you can understand they won't be much impressed by some letter in a far-away country, even if by chance they heard about it (which obviously they won't). In any case, definitely not enough to order the software team to make an ad-free version just for you. I'm sorry but, besides the illusory "I showed them!" part, this seems totally pointless...

          Don't get me wrong, I totally agree with you on the principle, but it's an unequal contest. Users have already paid and just aren't of any importance to them except as milk cows, so they won't mind them mooing every now and then.

          "Customer satisfaction is extremely important to us, so customers who aren't satisfied should go ... themselves"

          Now, if worldwide sales started to drop, that would be a totally different kettle of fish... Remember, they decided to reduce the ad load on their eye-wateringly expensive flagship phones. They can be taught...

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

            "It's not like those customer-facing Muppets have the power to do more then to blather meaningless phrases"

            The letter wasn't addressed to the customer-facing muppets, it was addressed to the Head of Legal & Compliance and to the General Legal Counsel at Samsung Electronics, in the country where I live. I'm not interested in pursuing a corporate strategy shift, but I do want the ads either removed, or my money back. One of these two things will happen; most likely the second in order to make this go away.

            Of course anybody wishing to follow my lead is welcome, and if enough people do it then ultimately Samsung will stop giving money back and start taking the issue a little more seriously.

            1. Charles 9

              OR they may find it cheaper to lawyer their way out of it...

      2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        MARKETING GIRL:When you have been in marketing as long as I have, you’ll know that before any new product can be developed, it has to be properly researched. I mean yes, yes we’ve got to find out what people want from fire, I mean how do they relate to it, the image -

        FORD: Oh, stick it up your nose.

        MARKETING GIRL: Yes which is precisely the sort of thing we need to know, I mean do people want fire that can be fitted nasally.

        CHAIRMAN: Yes, and, and, and the wheel. What about this wheel thingy? Sounds a terribly interesting project to me.

        MARKETING GIRL: Er, yeah, well we’re having a little, er, difficulty here…

        FORD: Difficulty?! It’s the single simplest machine in the entire universe!

        MARKETING GIRL: Well alright mister wise guy, if you’re so clever you tell us what colour it should be!

    3. Totally not a Cylon

      You need a Pi-Hole on your network.

      Raspberry Pi with pi-hole software, use for dhcp & dns and no adverts.

      Additionally it shows lists of what is connecting to where and allows you to block address lookups.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "You need a Pi-Hole on your network."

        Got PiHole. It's good e.g. essential for websites of the "Reach plc" group of former newspapers.

        Got a Samsung UK 2019 TV too. Using PiHole results in fairly basic stuff not working any more. Clearly this isn't PiHoles fault, but...

        What kind of stuff? Pretty much anything, even the EPG????

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: "You need a Pi-Hole on your network."

          I run Pi-Hole on my network, and tbh the only problem I've found with it - and it's a big one - is that the online "what's currently on tap" page of my local pub's website doesn't work when Pi-Hole is active, and I have to drop off my wifi onto cellular to see if it's worth my wandering down to pick up a growler(*) of anything.

          *Note to Rightpondians - this is a glass/metal/thermos-type 64oz beer container. For some reason my brother in the UK sniggers uncontrollably when I mention the term. I remain innocently puzzled as to why.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "You need a Pi-Hole on your network."

            A colloquial term for a bushy lady garden of the 1970s

            1. David 132 Silver badge

              Re: "You need a Pi-Hole on your network."

              Ah, thank you. I am enlightened. And that accords with my brother’s sense of humour.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    "Bought" not

    Samsung is not alone. In today's world, we don't own as much as we think. If you "buy" an ebook or song it can be removed from your device remotely. "Smart" devices (phones, TVs, IoT, etc.) can be bricked remotely. Some are even designed to brick themselves often through non-replaceable batteries. The internet is both a blessing and a curse.

    1. Andre Carneiro

      Re: "Bought" not

      The "blessing" bit is paling more and more when compared to the "curse" bit...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Peleton bikes you bought

    Bricked remotely if you refuse to pay an ongoing fee. You own nothing these days.

  14. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    NOTE: Not trying to defend the action by any organization.

    No idea why everyone is focusing their attention on Samsung.

    Nobody seems to complain when Apple does the same thing to, say, iPhones stolen from their stores.

    And, if I remembered correctly, some vehicles in America can get remotely disabled if, for example, it was stolen.

    1. the hatter

      Because when your iphone is stolen, you can disable your iphone - the hypocrisy from samsung extolling societal benefits, yet they only use it to protect their own assets, won't extend the same courtesy to their own customers when the customer is in the same situation.

      1. fireflies

        The problem with helping the customers in the same manner is, how do you prove that a serial number matches that customer's TV?

        Serial numbers are not logged at the point of sale (at least not in the UK), and customers are not likely going to check their serial number unless they're asked to (such as calling Samsung for support). If the TV is wall-mounted, chances are it's going to be difficult for them to even reach the serial number.

        What if a customer sells their tv to someone else - could they then report the serial number and get it locked? (and for added effect, remove the label and/or swap it with a fake one)

        We already have scam phone calls where people ask for sensitive information - what if they ask for tv serial numbers then threaten to block them if they don't pay up?

        Implementing such a system leads to a whole host of problems.

        Even if a customer has their serial number, Samsung has no way of knowing that serial actually belongs to them. Even if the TV is registered with Samsung after the purchase, with that serial number, who thinks to contact Samsung and de-register it again?

        Apple have their "Find my..." system that locks their Macs, iPhones, iPads, and iWatches - no repairs can be carried out and the device can be remotely locked by whoever has it registered to their cloud account - does Samsung really want to go down that route for TVs - an item that's not typically known to be portable?

        How often are TVs stolen? Is it that serious of a problem to warrant the manufacturer's implementation of a system to lock them down? Is that going to be a selling point? "If you buy a Samsung, when it invariably gets stolen, we can remotely brick it... it won't help you get the tv back, but you'll be happy knowing that the crims will be upset with you and come back for revenge... Hope you improved your security?"

        What courtesy is it to customers when they don't benefit, whether the tv is remotely locked or not. Apple locks deter thieves from stealing apple products when people are walking around on the streets with them. A Samsung remote brick isn't going to deter a burglar from breaking into your house - if they're of a mind to pinch a tv and have the means to do it, they're not likely going to be put off by the outside chance the owner can have it remotely bricked if they connect it to the internet.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Most stolen TVs vanish from the back of vans - they have a box!

          A modern TV is very large, very thin and very fragile. When installed in your home the box gets thrown away or hidden in the loft/cellar/cupboard of hiding.

          A burglar isn't going to bother - it's not worth much without a box, and they'll probably obviously break it.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

            Serial numbers are usually embedded in the "About My TV" section in the menu.

            Granted not much help if the screen is dead\non-responsive\damaged or simply a bare patch of space were the TV used to be, when dealing with warranty\insurance\police reports*.

            *My temp storage unit (& 5 others - Padlocks cut off contents ransacked & replacement single keyed padlocks** put on the doors to mask the theft until someone noticed (Me as it happened) their key didn't fit), that I had dropped a load of stuff into recently got robbed. Lost some items of sentimental that probably needed junking so I might be a little up on the event except for the personal items of a sentimental value.

            **These replacement padlocks made it easy to spot which units had been hit, thanks to the serial number by the keyhole.

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Maybe they can't?

        Is it not more likely that this is part of the one-time setup of the device, where it checks for a firmware update when first connected to the Internet?

        Perhaps there's a bug in the original firmware, where a malformed response to the "Here's my serial number, give me firmware" would brick it.

        A TV that's already done one-time setup might never do it again, and they fixed the bug?

        Sure, they most likely could add this "feature" to a future release - but like you and many others said, can't trust that, as it involves a rather large back-end and is so trivially exploited.

  15. krf

    Dumb is good.

    This is one of the reasons - the main one being the eventual future day stuffing of your personal videos and songs with ads - that I prefer a dumb TV. But, since those are hard to find now, I just purchase the one I want, hook it up to an HDMI Roku or Apple TV, and never, ever turn on the internal Internet settings. In fact, you should first turn on the TV, or other similar box, in a place where it can't get a wifi signal just in case the Internet access comes defaulted on. Your WPA password should prevent that, but you can't be too careful.

    So, Sony can either resign themselves to the fact that I do indeed own this TV, or tough noogies.

    And, by the way, my ebooks and songs that I bought also never see the outside world again. The only way they are going to get permanently deleted by someone else is if they walk out to my offsite storage and take a hammer to the backup drives and DVDs. I guess that gives me absolute title to that media also.

    Some battles are worth fighting, even if you are up against a formidable enemy.

  16. Pangasinan Philippines

    Let's include DENON

    My internet radio - Denon CEO Piccolo - I bought myself as a retirement pressie worked just fine . . . .

    UNTIL the day I did a firmware update. This failed and the device would not function.

    Denon Philippines fixed the update but the process lost all my presets including BBC, Classic FM and the others.

    The scrolling message told me to open a Denon website.

    That told me that Denon no longer support the web directory of radio stations and that I would have to pay a subscription yearly to some other company.

    The amount is small, but I am not going to pay out every year for something I believed would work for ever. There is no technical reason why it can't be used.

    I now have a brick in the stereo cabinet.

    Similarly my Apple TV mark I won't connect to youtube. There may be a technical reason for that, but has put me off from buying a replacement.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let's include DENON

      Never buy Denon again. It's not their streams anyway, they're just playing a public stream:

      Try this:

    2. Mr Dogshit

      Re: Let's include DENON

      Yeah yeah. When you bought that device, ten bucks went to vTuner. That business model no longer works, resulting in what you're seeing.

      Solution is to use ycast, see

    3. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Let's include DENON

      "Similarly my Apple TV mark I won't connect to youtube. There may be a technical reason for that, but has put me off from buying a replacement."

      The ATV mk1 will still open Youtube; it hasn't been blocked or banned, and it doesn't need any updates or subscriptions to function. There will be another reason why yours doesn't work.

      Logging in to your iCloud account on an ATV1 is a pain in the arse though - it doesn't natively support 2-factor authentication, so you need to log in with password only first (which will fail), then log in with your userID and password+2FA code together. it's a bodge and very un-Apple, but it works.

      So if you're logging in as with password L0rD_31pu55, you would first use:


      Password: L0rD_31pu55

      <fails, sends 2FA code 999999 to mobile>


      Password: L0rD_31pu55999999

  17. RLWatkins

    Samsung also disables handset cameras when you root the handset...

    ... and demands calendar and contact access to change the background image on the home screen. The litany of such offences grows with each passing month. It's so sad; I used to be a staunch proponent of their gear. Lately? It would have to be free... and even then I'd install a 3rd-party ROM before I used the damn' thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Trusted module in the sensor

      Yeh, its the trusted module in the sensor. More 'brave' they copied from Apple.

      The camera module has crypto keys and the phone registers WHICH camera it has first time, and the camera registers WHICH phone it is connected to, first time, after which its locked. When you switch OS, it counts as a new phone and the camera module then refuses to talk to this 'new phone'.

      Reinstalling the old OS doesn't help, the keys are still locked to the now gone phone image.

      Of course they cannot release the crypto code for it, or keep the keys because then people would see under the hood of their shitty lockin.

      It's done so that Apple/Samsung can force you to buy only the official parts from them at a huge markup and not from the supplier directly at cost.

      I was once a Samsung fanbois too, as late as a couple of years ago I would always buy Samsung. Now I've stopped using them. It's all like this, right across their range now. I think its like when HP stopped making better printers to get more profits and started making more 'gotchas' in their printers to milk more profits from their user base. In their head they would keep their existing userbase and simply milk ever more and more money from them, in reality their customer base declined faster than their price increases:

      The same happened to Apple, and now will also happen to Samsung.

      They all end up milking brand loyalty in their ever-decreasing user base.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: Trusted module in the sensor

        There are legitimate reasons for coding parts; in Apple's case, it's part of the overall security model; ensuring device integrity to make sure that (for example) a compromised camera module (or malware device masquerading as a camera module) can't get in on the ground floor with the OS.

        The problem isn't coded parts per se, it's the extortionately priced and restrictive supply chain which forces you to buy replacement parts from them. If components were fairly priced, then coding would be A Good Thing.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Trusted module in the sensor

          Its not trusting the *class* of device, its trusting the *instance* of device. You can swap two identical camera in two identical iPhone models and they refuse to work with each others camera.

          The problem they have is the broken iPhones are parts to repair other iPhones which is a whole loss of revenue stream.

  18. Winkypop Silver badge

    Before bricking the (stolen) TV

    Could it display a huge warning about self destruction in 5 minutes along with the sound of a klaxon?

    WARNING: You now have 4:55 minutes to get to a safe distance…..

  19. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    "Normal service can be restored if you can provide a valid proof of purchase and a TV license"

    What? What does a TV license have to do with it?

    1. KernelMustard

      "In terms of the Broadcasting Act, No 4 of 1999, as amended, any person or entity that has in its possession and/or uses a TV set. A licence remains payable, irrespective of whether a television set in one’s possession is used or not."

      Different to the UK

  20. Big_C

    All Smartphones have the same feature.

    And with them it is a very good security feature.

    And while with Smartphones usually a user starts

    the process, that killswitch can of course also used

    from the company side. It is only software.

    What is missing imho is a legal framework for such

    actions, including sanctions, damages etc.

    It is a slippery slope, because with smart devices it is

    only a small step from retaliatory bricking to an up front

    registration. Again: with Smartphones that is an

    accepted procedure, but maybe there should be a limit

    to a small class of devices.

  21. elmarm

    Remote Bricking

    Is this the same Samsung that pushed out a faulty .xml file and bricked a ton of Blu ray players worldwide? I had to take my one in to our local Samsung repair shop and they had to replace the one pc board, thats how bricked it was.

    What could POSSIBLY go wrong?....

    Always remember folks: its like the old army saying. If the enemy is in range, so are you... In this case. If you can see their servers, their servers can see you.

  22. Dr Kerfuffle

    Sure. they can brick the TVs but ...

    So, sure they can brick the TVs, but how come they still can't fix the BBC Red Button/Text service on my brand new Samsung 2021 model TV ?

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Sure. they can brick the TVs but ...

      Because you've already bought the TV, which means it's your problem now and not theirs. Samsung cease 'caring' about users the moment money changes hands.

    2. Warm Braw

      Re: Sure. they can brick the TVs but ...

      The HbbTV bit of the service does work - the bit that links to iPlayer and gives you extra channels during Wimbledon.

      It's the MHEG-5 news & information service that Samsung no longer support - largely because the BBC said they were going to discontinue it and planned their recent model range to leave out the functionality. Having reluctantly reprieved a cut-down version of the service, the BBC doesn't have the money to make it work with HbbTV too.

      I don't know if MHEG-5 is a mandatory part of the D-Book, largely because I can't afford the £50k pa subscription to read it. However, if it is, I suppose you would have a case that the use of the "Freeview" branding was misleading.

      But as the remaining bits of information are mechanically harvested from other BBC feeds and are often truncated, out of date or weirdly misplaced you might find it hard to demonstrate you've suffered a loss.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why the fuss ? Microsoft have been bricking Win10 devices remotely for years...

    usually legitimately acquired ones.

    1. albegadeep

      Re: Why the fuss ? Microsoft have been bricking Win10 devices remotely for years...

      "Microsoft have been bricking Win10 Windows devices remotely for years... "

      Many, many years. FTFY.

  24. Electronics'R'Us
    Big Brother

    Electronic Serial Numbers

    These have been a thing for a long time (at least 30 years).

    They can be used in situations both reasonable and nefarious. I have used them for a lot of reasons and one was to be able to scan an incoming part for repair / update to eliminate human error.

    Another was to record the cards fitted in a box when shipped so that if the box came back it should have the same cards; we had one customer who liked to accumulate dead cards and then fit them all in one box (the repair contract had a fixed price repair per box so we did this in self defence).

    They can certainly be used for other purposes both good and bad.

    The market for vendor lock-in has never been more active, although in the defence of some of them, unauthorised (and therefore untested) replacement parts can, and have, caused significant damage.

    The technology has existed to do this for a long time; it is a matter of how it is used.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Samsung is remotely bricking smart TVs it said were looted

    first they came.... for that book on kindle, I think. But I didn't buy into the amazon walled garden, so I did nothing, only muttered about those sheeple.

    fforward, Samsung, etc, etc, but I didn't loot, or buy, ultra-20K 8D, 300 inch Samsung telly ultra-cheap, so, as usual, I did nothing, plus my own 'smart' Samsung stays as dumb as it was on day one when I bought it

    Likewise, no action from me when Tesla, or other 'smart' car maker decided to brick cars that owners (license holders) hacked to get free access to those 'premium' locked-in features, cause like, fuck, I could never afford any of them cars anyway.

    But I did get slightly uncomfortable, because, despite all my inaction(s), I have come to see something shaping up, somewhat vague, but getting clearer, and it's not looking customer friendly, nosir...

  26. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

    Help i'm choking here...

    'In keeping with our values to leverage the power of technology to resolve societal challenges, we will continuously develop and expand strategic products in our consumer electronics division with defence-grade security, purpose-built, with innovative and intuitive business tools designed for a new world'

    somone laboured hard to throw these words out.... and it shows.

    1. Long John Silver

      Re: Help i'm choking here...

      One wonders whether the author was able to attribute meaning to his own fractured prose. However, it is impressive corporation-speak. Think of the hours spent in business school necessary to master the art of saying sod-all.

  27. TRT Silver badge

    Revenge is a dish...

    that is best served over the air.

  28. Andy 97

    Phoning home.

    May I recommend running Wireshark, or another network monitoring tool, then enjoy watching what your telly does (sometimes in standby).

  29. Long John Silver

    Owner control over devices purchased

    I possess an excellent Sony 4K TV. Unfortunately, this like other devices from Samsung, Amazon, and elsewhere, comes with a pre-installed operating system (in Sony's case a variant of proprietary Android). As with mobile devices, taking full control by rooting is littered by obstacles. Indeed, I must not root my mobile phone because a daily use banking 'app' would refuse to operate; this being a not unreasonable security protection implemented by the bank. Other readers will be only too well aware of the unwanted crap sent to smart TVs and mobile devices. Although there are various 'apps' available to mitigate the worst, one is unable to configure a device as one would wish. For instance, my TV insists on displaying the latest vulgar rubbish available from Disney despite my not having a subscription.

    Superficially, bricking stolen devices has attractions. Samsung's use of this is small beer protection against theft from warehouses. Perhaps enhanced physical security during storage and transit would achieve better? Individuals who purchase devices should have choice over whether these when stolen can be bricked. In any case, phone operators can deny its use for telephony with its current SIM card.

    I suspect Microsoft, and similar, would love to disable PCs and servers when copies of their software are unlicensed. I don't doubt they possess the means. Holding them back is reputational damage and huge compensation awards to entities accused in error. Just imagine the comeback should corporate servers wrongly be disabled. That applies to any device/software distributor with legal presence in the USA or other litigious nations. Samsung ought beware.

    This thin edge of wedge leads to application of bricking for infringing 'rights' to any kind of software and digital 'content'. Elsewhere, I have speculated that Microsoft and other proprietary operating system manufacturers have a potential market in selling access to anti-infringement tools to copyright holders. So long as only the infringing 'content' is disabled, perhaps with a 'call home' identifying the miscreant, it seems unlikely the software vendor would end up in hot water.

  30. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

    Dumb\SMART TV's & StartUp EULA's

    The more I think about the lack of available dumb TV's, the more I think the next TV purchased will be a high quality projector, interconnects & a proper home theatre.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about blocking Sammy servers

    One could just be block all Samsung servers on the router unless they are using CDN like Akamai

  32. mbee

    Why would anybody buy a TV which allowed somebody else, in this case a corporation to invade your home? Find a TV without that bug.

  33. Conundrum1885

    TV brickage?

    So scuttling off to weaponize this.

    I can think of a dozen uses TODAY to pwn specific pre-looked-up-model-number smart TVs such as those used in shops creatively. Holtzmann voice.

    Of course strictly for amusement purposes, ie for proof of concept so the right button combination restores all functions.


  34. Conundrum1885

    TV brickage? Part Deux

    Incidentally my Sony Bravia from the Early Myspace Era (tm) is still going but ran into the MHEG5 issue.

    Its only really a problem if I use free-to-air but having one HDMI limits my options somewhat.

    Now if there were a way to make say a Bluray player output VGA natively but still report that its

    connected to HDCP enabled device in another room that isn't even turned on.. hehehe.

    A RPi can output composite video so the function on older players enabling compatibility with non-HDTVs

    might still be present though not used.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: TV brickage? Part Deux

      Ever considered attaching a remote-controllable HDMI switch to your TV?

  35. Persona Silver badge

    Why bother with smart TV's?

    I get why Samsung etc. want to sell us all smart TV's as that gives them lots of stuff to market. As a consumer however it doesn't give me very much. New versions of TV's come out every year and "app" support for many models is patchy. Sometimes apps for a particular service never arrive and often after a couple of years apps are dropped. Plugging in an Amazon firestick gives much better functionality. It's also dirt cheap so should you need to upgrade to a better one after a few years it's not a problem.

    As I watch all my actual TV through a PVR (a YouView box in my case) I don't have any need for the TV tuner part of the TV either. In fact all I want is a nice flat high resolution 65 inch monitor, with or without speakers, that can be fixed to the wall with a couple of HDMI connections hidden behind it. Of course that's not an appealing product to Samsung as their marketing machine needs "features".

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Why bother with smart TV's?

      > Why bother with smart TV's?

      Because there are no dumb TVs left? And that's because making a TV "smart" costs only peanuts, and it allows to collect juicy profitable user data to resell.

      As a result you are supposed to only buy "smart" TVs. After all they are more shiny and hip than the tired old dumb TVs, aren't they, progress and everything (cue picture of pretty happy family having clearly a great time in front of their spiffy new smart TV)...

    2. Piro Silver badge

      Re: Why bother with smart TV's?

      I was as naïve as you, once, and then I saw the light: Smart TVs are bringing the price of TVs way down, due to the data they can collect and sell on you.

      It's crazy how cheap an enormous, fragile and complex object is - and it came from around the world to get to you. Smart TV functions have a hand in that.

      Simply never cable the thing up to the network or enable the wifi, and now have a not-so-smart TV, for less than a monitor of that size would cost you. It's definitely NOT the hill to die on.

      You might even find yourself thinking a couple of the functions are OK - for example mirroring from a smartphone (quite nice to show a photo quickly up on the telly), and want to re-enable the networking on the device. If you do that, then, like me, you can just block every last bit of traffic at your firewall, so it can only chat internally.

      Et voilà, a device that's working for you, and isn't even able to spy on you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why bother with smart TV's?

        "you can just block every last bit of traffic at your firewall, so it can only chat internally.

        Et voilà, a device that's working for you, and isn't even able to spy on you."

        It wasn't that simple with the Samsung I (mistakenly) bought recently. Won't be making the same mistake again.

        For the TV to finish its power-up sequence and be meaningfully usable, it effectively has to have the EULA(s) accepted. If it can't find the EULA on the web and can't see its evidence that you've accepted the EULA, the box doesn't finish powerup properly.

        So not only is the box designed to ignore the general discussion on the legitimacy of click-thru licencing that you don't get to see till it's too late, it's designed to render itself useless if the click-thru licence isn't accepted. Nice. Or not.

        I don't know if other TVs are as bad. But I bet that they will be soon, even if they aren't already.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The reason they don't do it for customers is simple. People commit insurance fraud. Sell TV. Get robbed (or then sell TV), claim insurance on said TV. TV gets blocked. Customer services nightmare.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like