Samsung has developed the ability to brick stolen smart TVs that connect to the internet following deadly riots and looting sweeping South Africa. Said riots have been ongoing since July 8th when former South African president Jacob Zuma began his fifteen-month prison sentence for contempt of court. As a result, violence broke out leaving at least 72 dead, widespread destruction of property, and over 200 shopping malls looted. Over a thousand people have been arrested so far according to South African Police.

Companies have had a hard time identifying which of their products have been obtained via malicious means. Apple, for example, has had the ability since 2016 to disable and track stolen or lost iPhones, and most Android developers have similar functionality with phone tracking software being an industry standard. With Google Pixel devices, users can remotely find, lock, and erase all data from a device. While this has been the norm for phones and other smart devices, there has been little to no development on security for larger products like TVs up until now.


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Samsung revealed in a press statement that in response to the unrest in South Africa the company has developed what has been dubbed a 'Block Function'. The Block Function works by detecting if a Samsung TV has been connected to wifi to unlock the TV's smart features, after which it will detect whether or not the TV was purchased legally. This is achieved by Samsung checking the serial number of the TV and checking it against the company's database of stolen TVs. If the TV was maliciously obtained, the TV becomes unusable. If there has been a mistake, you need to contact Samsung with proof of purchase and, depending on the region, a valid TV license. The technology is pre-loaded on all Samsung smart TV products.

But How Does This Impact Me?

While the press release is in response to riots in South Africa, it does say that it has been implemented to stop black market sales both within the country and past its borders, meaning such functionality is available worldwide in every Samsung smart TV. If you're planning on buying a TV from the back of a truck, make sure it isn't a Samsung one or you may have wasted your money. If you have legally purchased a Samsung TV you have nothing to worry about, so buying things legally should be your go-to option anyway.

The one question that remains, however, is whether this technology will be implemented into other Samsung products. Will it be impossible to use a stolen Samsung smartphone in the future as the South Korean company ramps up its security protocols? Will other technology companies implement similar features? We'll have to wait and see how this all pans out, but the idea of a kill switch for theft-prone, high-priced devices might actually be a great idea.

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I am a journalist with a love of all things virtual reality. I'm excited to document this emerging technolgy's progress into the mainstream and how it'll impact our daily lives.