Samsung suddenly publicized a feature that allows the company to disable stolen TVs remotely. The company calls it the “Television Block Function,” and Samsung activated it recently in South Africa after TVs were stolen from a warehouse.
Last month, a Samsung warehouse was looted during a wave of protests in South Africa, forcing Samsung to disable them. It is important to note that the TVs need to be connected to the internet to disable them.
When the TV connects to the internet, the serial code is checked against a list on Samsung’s servers. If there’s a match, the feature disables all TV functionality, rendering it useless to the thieves.
Samsung claims the feature is “already pre-loaded on all Samsung TV products” and that it “ensures that the television sets can only be used by the rightful owners with a valid proof of purchase.”
For a case like this, where the TVs are stolen from Samsung’s warehouse, it’s much easier for the company to know the serial numbers. On the other hand, if they were stolen from a store or a person’s home, it would be much harder to know the number that would allow the TV to be locked.
The company didn’t clarify whether the feature is only used for mass lootings like this or if a customer could reach out to Samsung to turn on the “Television Block Function” to disable their TV. Of course, the user would need to know the serial number of their TV, which most people probably don’t.