Samsung remotely blocked access to stolen TVs in South Africa

Earlier this month, Samsung activated the so-called TV Block feature for TVs stolen from a warehouse in South Africa in July. This makes the televisions unusable. This is done by detecting the serial number after connecting to the internet.

Samsung reported that the TVs were stolen from its own distribution center. This theft took place on July 11 in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal. Samsung has activated the blocking function specifically for the stolen copies. The South African Samsung department reported this more than two weeks ago.

This function works as soon as a stolen television is connected to the Internet. Once that happens, the serial number of that television is identified by a Samsung server, after which the blocking system is activated. According to Samsung, this will disable all television functions. Unblocking is also possible; proof of purchase and a valid TV license must be sent to Samsung.

It is not clear whether the blocking actually concerns all functions or whether it only concerns certain functions. It is also unclear whether communication with the Samsung servers and checking the serial number also takes place if the television is not directly connected to the Internet, but via a media player such as the Nvidia Shield or the Apple TV, for example.

The company states that TV Block is intended to prevent anyone other than the rightful owners from using the televisions. The goal, according to Samsung, is to limit the motivation to steal TVs and to prevent healing. With this, the manufacturer wants to prevent secondary markets from developing where illegal goods are sold, both in South Africa and across its borders.

Samsung makes it clear that the blocking function has been put on all Samsung television products in advance. It’s unknown if that means TV Block can be activated on all Samsung TVs sold worldwide, or if it’s limited to just those sold in South Africa. If it is possible worldwide, this could theoretically mean that a malicious person can block large numbers of Samsung TVs connected to the internet through a hack, for example.