5 Ways to Protect Your Amazon Fire TV from Malware

Aviva Zacks
Posted: December 16, 2018

Your Amazon Fire TV may be doing more than streaming your favorite shows—it might also be mining for Bitcoin. Oh sorry, you’re not going to get those Bitcoin, the person who infected your system with cryptojacking malware will.

In recent months, thousands of Amazon Fire TV devices were infected with mining malware. The malware hijacks the infected device’s processor to mine for cryptocurrency, causing massive slowdowns, long install times, and abrupt crashing in the middle of streamed content.

The malware relies on Android Debug Bridge (ADB) being enabled in the settings menu. Normally, this is only used by developers who create the apps that run on Fire TVs or to troubleshoot an Android device that isn’t working properly. The setting should be disabled by default, but many users enable ADB to sideload apps that aren’t available in the Amazon Appstore. Enabling ADB opens a specific port which the malware looks for and attacks.

While not specifically targeted by the malware, Amazon Fire TV devices are vulnerable since they’re Android-based, although it only impacted older generation devices. Newer devices, like the Amazon Fire TV Cube and the latest version of the Amazon Fire TV, were not affected. Amazon issued a security patch to fix the vulnerability in older devices, and you’ll be prompted before any additional software is installed on the device.

Once the malware infects your device, it attempts to infect other Android devices on the same network. How can you protect your hardware?

Here are five ways to prevent your Amazon Fire TV from becoming a cryptocurrency mining tool:

1. Ensure All Devices on the Network Have Antivirus and Anti-Malware Installed

While disabling ADB goes a long way towards protecting your device from malware, you should download an antivirus and anti-malware app from the Amazon Appstore. Check to make sure the app you choose is compatible with your device.

Since the malware will attempt to install itself on any device on the same wireless network, you should ensure all of your devices are protected.

2.  Download Only Amazon-Approved Apps

Installing apps from other sources can allow viruses or malware to infect the device. Only download apps to your Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick from the Amazon Appstore. The “unknown sources” option should be turned off by default.

To check if the setting is off, go to the Settings > Developer Options > Apps from Unknown Sources. If it is enabled, shut it off.

3. Disable ADB Bugging

If you have never used the ADB setting, chances are it’s already off. However, as a precaution, you should check. Select Device > Developer options and make sure ADB debugging is set to OFF. This will prevent your device from being infected this way in the future.

4. Update Devices to Latest Firmware Versions

Ensure the most up-to-date firmware version is installed on your Fire TV device. Software updates automatically download and install to your Fire TV device when it’s connected to the Internet. However, you can also manually check for software updates from the Settings menu. To view your currently installed software version and check for an update:

  • Select Settings > My Fire TV > Device from the Fire TV menu.
  • Look for the Software Version section to view the software version currently installed on your Fire TV.
  • Select Check for System Update to see if a software update is available for your device.

If an update is available, it will start downloading automatically. After the download is complete, select Install System Update to install the update immediately. Otherwise, the update will install automatically the next time you restart your Fire TV, or after your device has been idle for more than 30 minutes.

5. Use a Virtual Private Network

When you connect to a public wifi network (like the ones in coffee shops, hotels, and airports), users can potentially access your browser information and find out which websites you visit, your username and passwords, your consumer name and address, and videos you download and stream.

To protect yourself and your device, use a VPN to encrypt and hide all your browsing activity. If you travel outside the country, VPNs encrypt the Fire TV’s internet connection and routes it through an intermediary server in a location of your choosing. When configuring a VPN, make sure to use one available on the Amazon Appstore. Do not use one from an unknown source.

VPNs can only be used on 2nd Generation or later Fire TV devices since first generation Fire Sticks don’t support VPNs. As an alternative, you can set up the VPN on your wifi router instead of the Fire TV.

Summary

Nobody wants a malware infection on their Amazon Fire TV. The most important thing is to use the device as designed and not disable the basic security protections. If you follow the manufacturer’s plan for it, your device should stream your content without interruption.

About the Author

Aviva Zacks
Aviva Zacks

Aviva Zacks is a content manager, writer, editor, and really good baker. When she's not working, she enjoys reading on her porch swing with a cup of decaf.