It’s no secret that in today’s modern world, nearly every aspect of our society is driven by technology. Whether we’re talking about the government, huge corporations, or individual users, it informs almost every part of our lives. This is because technology gives us easy access to more knowledge than we could ever hope to absorb; it lets us know what’s happening all over the globe, keeps us connected to loved ones, and greatly increases our productivity.
But what happens when technology—or at least those who know how to exploit its weaknesses—turns against us? As anyone who’s owned a computer for very long will tell you, getting a virus can be a real pain. In a best-case scenario, it’s a big inconvenience; but in a worst-case scenario, you can have your passwords, bank account information, and all your files—basically anything stored on your computer’s hard drive—stolen in an instant.
However, consider the impact on your life if these intrusions were to become even more personal? What happens, for instance, when someone takes hundreds (or even thousands) of pictures of you without your knowledge, and posts them online? Even worse, what if they demand money to put a stop to it? And, what if this all occurs through your very own webcam?
If you think it can’t happen to you, think again.
Is Your Webcam Being Used Against You?
The reality is that you might not be worried about your webcam being hacked. In fact, according to this infographic, only about 50% of Americans are even aware that this is a potential threat. But whether you’re aware of it or not, webcam hacking is nothing new, and has been around almost as long as the webcam itself. And it is becoming an ever-increasing problem.
Webcam hacking remained on the periphery of most people’s minds until it was placed into the spotlight with the Miss USA scandal in September 2013. Soon thereafter, a study was completed by a couple of Johns Hopkins University students that showed just how easy it is to take control of someone’s webcam.
“But Wait a minute,” you might say to yourself, “won’t I know that my webcam’s in use? What about the LED warning light?” According to the study, “We describe how to disable the LED on a class of Apple internal iSight webcams used in some versions of MacBook laptops and iMac desktops. This enables video to be captured without any visual indication to the user.” In layman’s terms, this means that you’ll very likely never even know your webcam’s been hacked, because no warning light will appear.
And it Doesn’t Stop with Criminals
Unfortunately, the truth is that webcam hacking isn’t relegated only to individuals lurking in the shadows.
According to a Christian Science Monitor article from 2010, a Pennsylvania school came under fire due to the fact that they were using school-issued computers to unknowingly take pictures of students in their homes. The school district “acknowledged that it could remotely activate the [computer’s] webcam at any time – including in the student’s bedroom.” In fact, between the 40 computers that were issued to students, “30,881 webcam photographs of students, and 27,761 screenshots” were taken.
And it doesn’t stop there. More recently, according to this Washington Post article, the FBI has used similar tactics in the war against terror, which has been the subject of several legal debates in more than one state. This software was designed to “covertly download files, photographs and stored e-mails, or even gather real-time images by activating cameras connected to computers.”
With these frightening statistics in mind, what can you do to prevent yourself from becoming a victim?
3 Steps You Can Take to Prevent Your Webcam from Being Hacked
While it’s true that many of the most popular webcam hacking scandals have involved pre-2008 Macbook laptops, in addition to the installation of malware software known as a RAT (Remote Administration Tools), during our research we learned that PCs are susceptible as well. On top of this, while many of these stories involved individuals that were highly savvy at programming, we found several webcam hacking programs that claimed to be effective using only a computer and an internet connection. Ultimately, this means that any novice with a computer could potentially hack into your webcam.
With this in mind, here are a few tips you can use to prevent yourself (and your loved ones) from falling victim to webcam hacking:
- First and foremost, be careful what you download onto your computer. This is because most malware capable of taking control of your webcam is often disguised as a software update, or may even be installed when downloading pirated material such as movies, software, or music from the internet.
- Next, make sure your anti-virus program is up to date. Because webcam hacking has been in the mainstream media for over a year, most anti-virus software manufacturers include commands to specifically address the types of malware known to “infect” webcams. Most of these anti-virus programs also utilize a firewall, which is designed to prevent access to your network. While it’s true that most competent hackers will know how to get around a firewall, you’ll still be making their job that much harder.
- Finally, if you’re less concerned about solving the problem than you are about someone taking unauthorized pictures/videos, you can simply cover your webcam with tape, a sticky note, or even one of the many specialized products available, such as SpiShutter.
Has Your Webcam Been Hacked? Tell Us Your Story!
Have you been the victim of webcam hacking? Do you want the world to know your story? Or, do you have insider knowledge of how it can be avoided?
If so, make a difference today by leaving a comment!