A few weeks ago I was travelling to Indonesia for work and amidst mentally preparing myself for the humidity, the jetlag and lack of sleep the next few days would throw my way, I played a game of spot the blocked out webcam. So Instead of doing some work while I waited to board the flight and whilst on the flight, I decided to see how many people using their laptop in the terminal and plane had actually blocked the camera lens on the top of their laptop. Although I was just killing time, this little bit of market research would tell me how many people are aware of the threats of having an exposed webcam.
So, there I was calculating the number of individuals that were educated about keeping themselves secure. What I learned was that the younger travellers seemed to be more aware than the older. This could be for a number of different reasons, but to me, I think this comes down to either; education, or whether the computer is used for business or pleasure, which naturally leads to a differentiation of websites being accessed.
Why the webcam?
If you’re like me, you only use my webcam for the occasional Skype call or virtually catching up with international friends. And by occasional, I mean barely ever. What most people don’t know is that the first webcam was invented by a student, so lazy that he didn’t want to leave his desk to check if the coffee pot was empty…
So even though they can be used for a number of different things, webcams really came to popularity when social media and chat rooms were at large so we could connect to people in various locations without paying a fortune. Now, with technology where it is, most people would rarely use them as mobile devices make it readily available to connect with whoever, whenever, virtually.
So it makes sense that a part of your laptop that you don’t use and have probably forgotten about could be used against you as you won’t be ready for the attack? It’s important to note, that just because the light next to the camera isn’t ignited, it does not mean that the webcam is not in use…
Why should I cover my webcam?
Nothing causes a stir more quickly than fear. When you find out that someone has caught you out doing something embarrassing or perhaps incriminating, a sudden rise of fear makes even the calmest individuals panic. In most cases, whoever has hacked your device will have collected footage of you doing or saying something which they will release to your friends, family or the online community unless you pay for their silence.
What I find interesting is that it was not until around mid-2016 that this topic really came to light. An image of Mark Zuckerberg (Founder and CEO of Facebook) circulated online of the entrepreneur sitting at his desk, and in the background was his Macbook with tape over the webcam and microphone. Following this, the director of the FBI was also spotted doing the same stating, “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.” He was referring to Zuckerberg.
Now I know what you are thinking, ‘I am not the founder of a multi-billion dollar empire, or the leader of one of the largest security organisations in the world’. However, everyone is susceptible to being targetted by hackers and the little guys like us, constantly get attacked as our security levels won’t be as advanced as the big guns.
How you get attacked
I know I have mentioned it already, however, I want to make it very clear that just because the light next to the webcam isn’t ignited and you didn’t get promoted about it being turned on, doesn’t mean that it isn’t on… that’s the whole point. The hackers turn on your webcam and microphone without you even knowing so they can catch you when you are at your most venerable
According to PC World, “In the most likely scenario, you would receive an email with an attachment that, once opened, would install RAT software on your machine, which stands for Remote Administration Tools. Also if you think you’d notice your webcam running because of an activity LED, think again.”
If it’s a work computer, you are mostly fine as you wouldn’t get yourself into a sticky situation at work. However, if you use this computer in your bedroom, bathroom or anywhere why you might do stuff that hackers can use against you, it should defiantly be covered.
There are a number of different articles explaining how to disable your webcam. I would suggest not to do this as you will most likely forget about it and hackers can easily re-enable it if they know what they are doing. Instead, find some blu-tac, stickers or tape and simply cover your webcam. You should also cover your microphone but it’s harder for a hacker to do anything with this.
Images: Deposit Photos