Webcams are very practical and allow you to see your loved ones face-to-face, even if you are far way from them. They have also facilitated businesses and help journalists to interview people from around the world. While webcams offer many advantages, they can also put our privacy at risk. Hacking techniques have become more advanced and as a result, our webcams can be letting intruders into our life without our knowledge. Many people have decided to cover their webcams in order to protect their privacy. Some may think that this is a bit too much, but it turns out that you can never be too paranoid. Here we’ll discuss why it is important to secure your webcam and how you can do it.
What are the threats that you should consider?
Camfecting is the name used to describe the practice of hacking webcams. It is not something now, but since webcams have become more sophisticated and they offer better image quality, the threats to privacy are increasing. The scary thing is that not only cyber criminals are using webcams to spy on people. Government organizations are likely to use technology to monitor citizens. There have also been reports of schools and employers spying on students and staff, using the webcams on laptops used by them. A mainstream case that highlighted how a webcam can be hacked and used to spy on someone, took place in 2014 when former Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf became a victim of camfecting.
One of her old classmates managed to hack her webcam and monitored her activities for months. Wolf didn’t notice that this was happening until he attempted to blackmail her with the compromising images that he had captured of her. Eventually, the culprit was apprehended by the police and it was revealed that this wasn’t the first time that he had done this. He confessed that he had spied on at least 150 people. The case caused concern as it revealed that our webcams can be used against us and anyone could potentially become a target of camfecting.
It is important to keep in mind that there is a variety of malware that is specifically designed to hack webcams, and it can be easily used to spy on unsuspecting victims. One of the options used is called Blackshades, which is a remote access trojan or RAT that makes its way into a webcam, after a user visit an infected website, or opens malicious email attachments. Blackshades allows hackers to control the targeted webcam and it has been reported that this malware infected over 500,000 computers in more than 100 countries. The worse part is that according to authorities, this piece of malware was available in the dark web for as little as $40. Another malware that is used to hack webcams is called Delilah and it is mainly used to spy on employees of large companies in order to blackmail them and force them to reveal confidential information.
Webcam streaming websites
Even if you don’t hack someone’s webcam, you may end up seeing the footage captured. There are websites that offer access to images from unsecured webcams and while they are not hacking the webcams, they take advantage on their vulnerabilities. Since most webcams, IP cameras and security cameras leave the manufacturer security settings unmodified once they are set up, they can be easily monitored by other parties. The people behind these websites state that they are just scanning for unsecured cameras that are connected to the internet and they post the images captured. This is another example of how a webcam can be used as a tool to invade your privacy.
How to protect yourself from camfecting
One of the most practical solutions is to cover up the webcam to ensure that hackers can’t watch you. You can use a label, a piece of paper and tape, or black tape to physically cover your laptop’s webcam. Regardless of the option you have chosen, check that you have fully covered i by launching the camera app or test it with Skype’s calling feature. There are also physical webcam covers available on the internet for affordable prices. You can find options that suit different types of devices and they are available in a variety of sizes and shapes. Alternatively, if you use the webcam regularly for video calls and prefer not to keep it covered, you can simply close the laptop or turn off the computer whenever it is not in use.
Something else that you can help to avoid becoming a target of webcam hackers is to turn on the LED notification lights in your webcam, if it has them. These lights will let you know when the camera is active, so if you are not using the webcam and notice that lights are on, it is likely that someone has taken over the camera. However, it should be noted that this option is not always effective since some hackers have managed to create malware that can turn off the LED lights automatically to avoid detection. Last but not least, if you are using a security camera, or a standalone device, it is important that you change the default settings. Adjusting the factory settings will allow you to secure your camera. You can make these changes by launching the software included with the camera. If you don’t have the original CD, it is likely that you can download the software from the manufacturer’s website.
It is also important to perform regular scans on your computer to ensure that it is not infected. Although antivirus software may not be always effective when it comes to detecting the presence of webcam malware, there is an option that can help. Apart from using your regular antivirus program, you need to use a second opinion malware scanner. This is an alternative malware detection solution that acts like a secondary layer of protection for your computer, in case your main scanner misses an active malware threat. You can try options like Hitman Pro and Malwarebytes, which do a great job at staying up to date and protecting you from the latest malware.