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How to Protect Webcams From Hackers

webcam-snooping 

Webcams have become so integrated into modern computers that most people hardly notice them anymore.

Most laptops come with built-in webcams out of the box, so you don't have to go through the hassle of purchasing one and installing it.

However, the ubiquity of webcams has also made them a tempting target for hackers.

What Makes Hackers Interested in Your Webcam?

Perhaps a majority of your time in front of a computer is spent sitting in a chair and typing with a blank or concentration-filled expression on your face. Hackers wouldn't be interested in that.

However, there have probably been times when you've used your laptop to watch Netflix or YouTube while you were in bed getting ready to sleep or maybe feeling under the weather.

What about if you were near your computer just before starting a private Skype call with your partner who, was out of town for business reasons, and you decided to bring sexuality into the equation by wearing only underwear or nothing at all?

If a hacker could use your webcam to spy on you and gain footage that was embarrassing or otherwise material you'd want to keep out of the public eye, that criminal could potentially blackmail you and demand money, possessions or other valuables. When you don't immediately agree to provide it, they might threaten to release the footage for the world to see.

That scenario happened several years ago when Jared James Abrahams hacked into several webcams and received an 18-month prison sentence for his misdeeds. One of his victims was the 2013 Miss Teen USA winner. Another one of his targets refused to comply with Abrahams' demands - which included engaging in X-rated Skype sessions - and discovered he posted nude photos of her on a social media account.

Hackers may also break into webcams to incite terror. During a 2017 incident, a woman reported her external webcam moved on its own and said offensive phrases after cybercriminals compromised it. In addition to causing intense fright, the situation caused her to wonder how long people had watched her and what they'd seen.

There is potential profit in webcam hacks, too - especially since there are newer cameras that can transmit video in 1080p and which are often used by businesses.

Webcam-snooping sites are readily accessible online, too. Since the demand is there, so is the desire to keep breaking into unsecured feeds - especially if the webcam sites are ad-supported and substantially profitable.

Keeping Your Webcam Hacker-Free

Anti-virus scans are good preventative measures for using your webcam without fear of someone watching you. Webcam hacks can occur when Trojan viruses affect the drivers and programs associated with them.

If the light on your webcam starts blinking randomly, that's a possible indicator it may be hacked. To be safe, disconnect from Wi-Fi and run a full virus scan on your computer.

Also, if you have an external webcam, agree to receive updates from the manufacturer. If applicable, you should get information about potential vulnerabilities as well as instructions for how to download the software patches that keep you protected.

It's also become increasingly common for people to cover up the webcams built into their computers. Some of the most popular ways to do that are to use Post-It notes or pieces of translucent adhesive tape. Also, consider covering the cam with a small, thin piece of the "poster putty" people often use to put artwork on their walls.

Those options work in a pinch, but if you'd rather go with a less low-tech solution, some companies have noticed the unmet need in the market and began creating webcam shutters to slip over the top of your computer.

Surprisingly, laptop manufacturers haven't started including those components in their hardware, but the accessories you can buy are inexpensive and available from retailers such as Amazon.

Vigilance Required

Staying abreast of general webcam hacking news is smart because you'll know about the latest techniques infiltrators use to gain access.

For example, hackers have successfully disabled the lights that turn on to indicate active webcams on Macintosh laptops, meaning it's not always sufficient to assume there's not a problem if you never see the light turn on unexpectedly.

Now that you're aware why webcam hacks are so dangerous, it's easier to understand why some people keep their cameras covered.

The information you've just read features good examples of why some of the computer components people hardly think about are on hackers' minds all the time.

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About the Author

Kayla Matthews is a tech-loving blogger who writes and edits ProductivityBytes.com. Follow her on Twitter to read all of her latest posts! 

Image by Pixabay

Published Friday, January 19, 2018 8:58 AM by David Marshall
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