Webcams, should you be paranoid?

webcam There’s been a lot of talk about webcams and how you should cover up your webcam and microphone as people can eavesdrop without you knowing anything about it.  This gained more momentum recently when news about how Mark Zukerberg and the Director of the FBI, James Comey cover up their webcams.

But are these people simply being paranoid or can someone hack your computer without you knowing?  Let’s find out.

Can someone hack my webcam?

Unfortunately, in about 99.9% of the cases, yes someone can hack your webcam, especially if its embedded into a laptop.  Symantec have even released an article to tell you as much.  But how can this happen?  Unfortunately, the majority of the time it’s down to the user of the computer being tricked into running a piece of software which then allows the hacker to gain access to their system.

A popular piece of malware software called BlackShades can be used to trick the user to download the software (thinking it’s something else) which in turn opens up a connection to the hacker and allows them to take control of your webcam and mike – and even turn off the little light showing that your webcam is active.

I see you

So now that the hacker / malicious user has tricked you into downloading and opening access to your system, what can they actually see?  What does your webcam offer them?

Have a think, where is your webcam currently facing, if it one of these fancy rotating ones or a static one on top of the monitor?  Are there any personal documents and information on show? Pictures of friends and family?  Is the camera currently pointing to your keyboard?

People who want access to your systems via webcams will usually be patient, they can wait hours, days or even weeks for the right bit of information to come on show.  For the malicious person, they are usually waiting to get information such as credit card or bank information, something that is of financial benefit.

Thinking about the above, going and placing a post it note or something else over the webcam can actually make sense, especially if you are of the paranoid type.

How to protect yourself

Now that I’ve sufficiently got you thinking about your webcam and privacy, how do you go about keeping yourself protected?  It goes without saying that you should always have some up to date antivirus running, ensure that you keep your computer up to date with the latest updates.  If you use Windows, stop by the manufacturers website every now and then and see if there are any updates for your peripherals and see if there are any recent firmware updates or updates which haven’t been included in the Microsoft updates.  This will ensure you are protected as much as possible.

Additionally, you should also air on the side of caution, always be on the lookout, check links of websites and emails.  Don’t click on links or run software without you knowing where they have come from first.

I hope this article gives you some thought and keeps you safe.

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