Samsung confirms all its televisions contain 'TV Block', a remote disabling functionality

'TV Block' was revealed after a heist at one of the company's warehouses in South Africa.
'TV Block' was revealed after a heist at one of the company's warehouses in South Africa. Photo credit: Getty Images

After a heist at one of its warehouses in South Africa, Samsung has revealed its television sets have a pre-installed remote security solution that can stop them functioning.

The company said it had activated 'TV Block' on all television sets looted from the Cato Ridge distribution centre in KwaZulu-Natal since July 11, 2021. 

The ability to remotely stop television sets functioning had not been widely reported until now - and it's being called "disconcerting" for consumers.

"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 Samsung South Africa website reported.

"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."

The blocking system comes into effect when the television is connected to the internet, the company said. 

Once connected for activation, the serial number is checked by the Samsung server and if found to be stolen all television functions are disabled.

"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," said Mike Van Lier, director of consumer electronics at Samsung South Africa.

"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."

However, as PC Mag points out, it could also cause issues for those who purchased their Samsung televisions legitimately.

"It will be disconcerting for at least some consumers who own a Samsung TV knowing at any point in the future it could be remotely disabled," Matthew Humphries wrote.

"It may not even be Samsung who instigates the block. Imagine Samsung gets hacked and the hacker manages to trigger the function for all TVs connected to the internet worldwide?"

Samsung has said televisions that are incorrectly blocked could be reinstated by sharing proof of purchase with the company, indicating it has considered how the technology could be used against legitimate customers.

Newshub has approached Samsung's New Zealand representatives for comment.