Television software company Ocean Blue has partnered with Sophos to develop a cloud-based antivirus solution to address the potential for malware on smart televisions. As connected television devices and displays become more prevalent, security concerns need to extend beyond content protection to ensure the integrity of platforms against other attacks.

With many connected television displays and devices based on Linux or Android there is the potential to download and run applications. While this brings many new features, it also brings the possibility of infection with viruses and other malware.

The joint effort by Ocean Blue and SophosLabs is designed to offer maximum protection against such possible threats, with the lowest demand on system resources.

“Almost all new connected TV products are at risk from malware,” claimed Ken Helps, the founder and chief executive of Ocean Blue Software. “This partnership with Sophos will allow us to provide manufacturers with middleware already prepared to defend their products against attack.”

The solution can be provided either as part of the Ocean Blue middleware or as a standalone client for use with other systems.

“Most consumers don’t realize that smart TVs are just as vulnerable to threats as other devices,” said Michael Rogers, the vice president of global alliances at Sophos. “This partnership with Ocean Blue Software provides tremendous opportunity to allow consumers to take advantage of the features Smart TVs offer, while ensuring their home networks remain secure.”

Whether the virus threat to smart televisions is real or hypothetical, the risk of such intrusion on the television screen is a disturbing prospect, which has probably been underestimated.

It might be assumed that product and service providers would be able to lock down systems sufficiently to protect against such threats. Many connected television application environments are based on browser-based technologies with limited access to underlying systems. However, this does not necessarily mean they are automatically immune to attack.

The theoretical risks range from taking control of connected television screens to using them to access other systems on a home network. While consumer electronics manufacturers may wish to own the connected home, the possibility of malevolent third parties taking control is deeply disturbing.

Historically, security considerations have been about content protection and securing revenues. In the world of the connected television, greater consideration may have to be given to other aspects of system security, not only on endpoint devices but also at a platform level. Given that security compromises of network systems are hardly unheard of, this should not be viewed as an idle threat.