Samsung Remotely Disabling Connected Smart TVs Stolen By South African Looters

August 24, 2021 by Dave Haynes

Samsung has announced an interesting way to deal with looting and theft of smart TVs and, I assume, smart commercial displays – remotely disabling them and rendering the screens useless.

The electronics giant announced recently that it would use a designed-in “block function” on smart screens to neuter stolen TVs in South Africa when they get plugged in and connected to the Internet.

Samsung South Africa has announced the implementation of a Television Block Function on all Samsung TV sets. The blocking system is intended to be implemented in respect of televisions that have been obtained by users through unlawful means and in some cases, stolen from the Samsung warehouses.

TV Block is a remote, security solution that detects if Samsung TV units have been unduly activated, and ensures that the television sets can only be used by the rightful owners with a valid proof of purchase. The aim of the technology is to mitigate against the creation of secondary markets linked to the sale of illegal goods, both in South Africa and beyond its borders.

This technology is already pre-loaded on all Samsung TV products.

“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. This technology can have a positive impact at this time, and will also be of use to both the industry and customers in the future,” says Mike Van Lier, Director of Consumer Electronics at Samsung South Africa.

The TV Block is a response to looting at a Samsung distribution centre in Durban in mid-July. Says Samsung South Africa:

Looting also happened at LG facilities in the country and at least one factory was destroyed by arson. I am not sure if LG displays have a similar blocking function.

I think most AV and signage people would assume a connected smart TV has some linkage back to the manufacturer, and that would be useful for things like firmware upgrades or added functionality. I did not know, however, that displays have what is, in effect, a kill switch.

It’s certainly an effective means of dealing with stolen property, though I suppose the workaround is using an external set-top box as the player and making the screen a “dumb” display.

Some cars also have similar remote kill switches that can be activated when a vehicle is reported as stolen, slowing them down or preventing them fro even starting again.

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