You Should Probably Start Covering Your Webcam

I'm serious. Even if you’re not a celebrity, you probably have something to lose by having your personal information held at ransom.

Over time a few high profile individuals have been seen covering their webcams with all sorts of peripherals available on the market. People like the former F.B.I. Director James Comey who has stated, “I put a piece of tape over the camera. Because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their camera.” It is possible he was referring to Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg who once posted:

If you look at his work laptop in the background, you’ll find that a piece of tape has been placed over the webcam and the dual mic on the left side of his computer. While it’s easy to imagine any number of reasons why hackers would be interested in breaking into Mark Zuckerberg’s Macbook Pro or accessing Comey’s laptop, does the threat spread to people who aren’t in the social sphere of influence?

To answer that question accurately, we have to understand what hackers are and hacking is all about. According to Berkeley In computing, a hacker is any skilled computer expert that uses their technical knowledge to overcome a problem. The problem may be accessed for good or ill, but the end goal is to make something that had some semblance of security completely defenseless. Since we all have some form of value attached to the devices we use because of the personal information stored in them, hackers stand to profit the most if they can capture footage or audio they could use for blackmail. Granted, the likelihood of being attacked and bothered for payment is reduced if you aren’t a celebrity who has a public image to protect.

These types of attacks usually involve hackers accessing your webcam and turning it on without your knowledge by first taking over your computer. This paradox makes the entire scenario similar to any other type of remote attack. Somehow, the user would install surveillance or Remote Administration Tools (RAT) software by careless usage such as downloading an attachment from an unknown sender. Sometimes, your activity LED (the red light) doesn’t need to flash for you the camera to be remotely activated.

Considering the challenges we are about to face for a time to come, please exercise the following steps towards caution:

Always keep your laptop shut when it is not in use
Update your software regularly, especially your web browsers and all associated plug-ins such as Adobe Flash.
Enable your firewall and ensure it stays enabled.
Always run an antivirus and routinely check for malware.
As always, avoid clicking links in emails as far as possible, even when you know the sender.
Cover your webcam with tape or a peel-off sticker to make absolutely certain that no one is watching listening to you.

Thanks for visiting Base64! What methods do you use to avoid hackers remotely switching your camera and microphone on? Share them with us in the comments below!