Sniffing Out LG Smart TV Tracking Protocol

lg-smart-tv-tracking

[DoctorBeet] noticed the advertisements on the landing screen of his new LG smart television and started wondering about tracking. His curiosity got the better of him when he came across a promotional video aimed at advertisers that boasts about the information gathered from people who use these TVs. He decided to sniff the web traffic. If what he discovered is accurate, there is an invasive amount of data being collect by this hardware. To make matters worse, his testing showed that even if the user switches the “Collection of watching info” menu item to off it doesn’t stop the data from being phoned home.

The findings start off rather innocuous, with the channel name and a unique ID being transmitted every time you change the station. Based on when the server receives the packets a description of your schedule and preferred content can be put together. This appears to be sent as plain data without any type of encryption or obfuscation.

Things get a lot more interesting when he discovers that filenames from a USB drive connected to the television are being broadcast as well. The server address they’re being sent to is a dead link — which makes us think this is some type of debugging step that was left in the production firmware — but it is still a rather sizable blunder when it comes to personal privacy. If you have one of these televisions [DoctorBeet] has a preliminary list of URLs to block with your router in order to help safeguard your privacy.

[Thanks Radcom]

Change the TV channel over IP

tv-channel-change-over-ip

[Mustafa Dur] wrote in to tell us about his hack to control the television with a smartphone. Now the one-IR-remote-to-rule-them hacks have been gaining popularity lately so we assumed that’s how he was doing it. We were wrong. He’s using his satellite receiver to provide the Internet connection. It pushes commands to his LG 47LH50 TV which has an RS-232 port.

The image above is the back of another LG television (it came from a forum post about controlling the TV with a PC). [Mustafa] is using a Dreambox DM800 satellite receiver which also has a serial port an he can telnet into it. He searched around the Internet and discovered that it should be possible to connect the two using a null modem cable. His initial tests resulted in no response, but a tweak to the com port settings of the box got his first command to shut off the television. After a bit of tweaking he was able to lock in reliable communications which he made persistent by writing his own startup script. From there he got to work on a Python script which works as the backend for a web-based control interface.

If you want to find out what else you can do with this type of serial connection read about this hack which used a script to try every possible command combination.

Hackaday links: September 11, 2012

Xbee sensors at Lowe’s?

Lowe’s, the home improvement big box store, is selling some home automation items which might be Xbee compatible. They’re being sold under the brand name Iris. There is some debate as to whether they’re Xbee, or just 802.15.4 hardware. Either way they might be worth checking out for your wireless projects.

Father sword replica from Conan the Barbarian

Sometimes its just fun to watch the master at work. In this case it’s a blacksmith replicating the sword from Conan the Barbarian. [via Reddit]

LG washing machine that phones home

LG has built an interesting troubleshooting feature into some of their washing machines. This video shows the encoded audio it will output if you use the right button combination. You’re supposed to hold your phone up to the machine while talking to customer service and they’ll be able to get some type of debugging information from the dial-up modem type of sounds. If you end up decoding this audio we want to know about it! [Thanks Pedro]

MicroSD card adapter for Raspberry Pi

[TopHatHacker] was surprised to see a full-sized SD card slot on the Raspberry Pi. His temporary solution to get his microSD card working was to uses a miniSD adapter. He cut away the case and bent the pins until they lined up with the microSD card.

Batman’s cowl for retro motorcycle enthusiasts

Okay, we think this Batman cowl in the style of 1950′s motorcycle garb is pretty cool. Just realize that if you’re seen wearing this you will be thought of as one of the crazy guys in town. [via BoingBoing]

NAS-based transcoding facilitates security cam viewing on iPhone

[Zitt] has a security camera which will send him messages any time it detects motion. However annoying this might seem, we’re sure he has his reasons for needing this much immediate feedback. The real problem comes when he goes to view the feed on his iPhone. His solution is to turn the camera’s notifications off, and use his own script to transcode a clip and shoot off an email.

As you can see above, the end result is a concise email that includes the recently captured clip, as well as links to the live feed. He has been storing the clips on an LG N4B2 Network Storage Server (NAS) and since he’s got root access to the Linux system on the device it was an easy starting point for the new system. After he compiled FFmpeg from source (which handles the transcoding) he started work on the script which backs up the recordings and sends the email messages.

One thing he wants to add is a method to clear out the old backup videos. Having encountered a similar issue ourselves we decided to share our one-liner which solves the problem. Find it after the break.

[Read more...]

LG TV hacking via serial connection or IR codes

[Brendan Robert] has been sending us forum thread links outlining the things he’s learned while hacking LG televisions. They were a bit hard to follow for the uninitiated, so we asked if he could give us an overview of what he’s been working on. Not only did he do that, but he made a little Hackaday shout-out seen above by adding the skull and cross-wrenches as one of the menu overlays.

He’s using a TV as his computer monitor, which he picked up at a discount because it was a display model. Without the original remote, and wanting to have features like power-saving mode which is standard on monitors but not on this TV, he decided to see what he could accomplish. A couple of things made this quite a bit easier. First, there’s an RS232 port built into the back which removes the need to investigate and solder your own onto the board. Secondly, since LG built on the Linux kernel for the set, you can download some of the firmware sources from their website.

What he came up with is a script that will find and communicate with the TV over the serial connection. The test script used during development polled every possible command, looking for valid return values. Once [Brendan] established which commands work and what they do, he was able to take command of the unit, writing scripts to adjust brightness based on the ambient light in the room as seen from the computer’s webcam. Make sure you check out the sub-pages to his post that detail the brightness adjustments, stand-by functionality, custom overlay graphics, and the extra commands he uncovered.

Add USB playback to some European LG televisions

Here’s a pretty simple hack to enable playback from a USB drive on LG televisions. It only works on European hardware, the LH, LF, and some LU models. The hack consists of downgrading the firmware to version 3.15, then navigating through some service menus.

It’s not quite as hardcore as the Samsung firmware hacking, but the added functionality is really great.

[Thanks Jeton]