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Webcam Safety Tips

By 8th Mar 2017Oct 18th, 2019No Comments

As we use video conferencing and calling more and more often, the risk of compromising your webcam security also grows.

If you use a camera connected to your computer, your webcam safety could be compromised by hackers and “peeping Tom” spies.

Even legally installed webcams that monitor activity in locations like vacation resorts and workplaces are vulnerable to misuse. We explain how this happens and what you can do to curb them from accessing your PC.

If you have bought a laptop in the past 10 years, you most certainly have a webcam attached to your laptop. And if you like chatting to people over a video call, you probably bought a separate camera that is attached to your PC or close by. According to Zugara, 78% of PC and Laptop owners have a webcam.

There are 2 main safety risks with webcams: Hijacking and Spying.

Webcam Hijacking

If a hacker can get into your PC, they can access your Webcam. Mostly they breach your webcam safety to seize control via a Remote Access Trojan-type virus (fittingly abbreviated to RATs!) that you unknowingly download to your computer or that they manage to install when you leave it unattended.

This video, from the BBC, shows a RAT in action:

Webcam hijacking enables the criminal to watch and record everything you do in front of your PC and if they hack into your mic as well, they can hear everything near your PC. Most hackers will wait, or urge you to do or say things that go against your character and then bribe you with the footage.

Tips to defend yourself against Webcam hacking

  • The most important thing you can do is install a full-service anti-virus such as ESET and keep it updated.
  • Speaking of updates, keep your software up to date as many updates come with security upgrades.
  • Check if your firewall on your PC is activated. If not, activate it now.
  • Never click on suspicious emails or links you don’t know.
  • Don’t talk to strangers, online. Hackers often chat up their victims allowing them to share personal information with them. This, in turn, gives them precious data that could be your passwords.
  • Keep an eye on your webcam indicator light. If it just switches on for no reason, that’s a pretty could sign that they’ve got in.
  • Lockdown your wireless network. Use an unpredictable, strong password.
  • You could always refer to this helpful image from our friends at SaveTNet: 

Savetnet_Social+Images-03

Webcam Spying

Naturally, hijacking a webcam will allow a hacker to spy on you but this use of these devices for just that is more widespread than you thought. For a start, there are legitimate devices, as we mentioned above, installed for security purposes in homes, stores, schools, and workplaces. Some of these, intentionally or not, are also connected to the Internet, putting webcam safety at risk. The New York Times reported a couple of years back on a security camera monitoring a girls’ changing room at a school. The computer server on which videos were stored was linked to the Internet.

There was also the massive DC security Camera Hack recently in which several CCTV security cameras in Washinton D.C. were hacked just eight days before the American presidential inauguration.

The point is that if a camera is somehow connected to the internet or a network it can be hacked, so be vigilant even in public spaces. You never know who is watching.

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