Webcam Users Under Serious Threat: The Internet Panopticon
So you own a webcam? Good! Welcome to being watched then.
Cyber crime is a fascinating field: constantly evolving, and always innovating. Meet its most latest brain child: hacking webcams without even the owner knowing!
The idea is simple: they turn on your webcam and watch you. Oh no, you will not be asked to pose or say cheese. They simply capture away pictures and videos of yours or anything in the webcam’s field, when you go about doing stuff, blissfully unaware.
Switching off your cam is not going to help either. The webcam hacking spyware works with a Trojan backdoor software that will turn on the web cam on its own. This can be installed in your system when you download innocent-looking picture or video or music files.
Still skeptical? Okay, let us get you some more details. If your system has a webcam, then it also requires a software to control it. Even if your webcam is connected, it need not be on. That requires the software we are talking about. Ideal case is when there is just a freecam single software that can access the cam, and you are its sole controller.
Having said that, there are apps that access the webcam other than the ones we are talking about. Examples are Yahoo! Messenger and the like. No cause to worry because these apps require you to ‘allow’ access.
There are other softwares that can be installed in your system, softwares that can access your webcam without your permission. You don’t have to be using the webcam or turning it on, consider it a job done by the software. The malicious code can be installed when you download something. Once installed, it can access your web cam, turn it on and click away! Shutter bug, did I say?
And hey, this ain’t elaborate conjectures on possible threats in the future. What we are talking about has already been done.
Some news reports: in Cyprus, a 45-year-old man was arrested in connection with hacking a teenage girl’s webcam, in order to take illicit pictures of the young woman in her bedroom. In Spain, police have arrested a man suspected of stealing online bank passwords and of writing a virus that is capable of spying on people through their webcams. More disturbing is the fact that the police found information from thousands of computers worldwide in his system. The Blake J Robbins v Lower Merion School District (PA) is legendary already, and the school used student laptop webcams to spy on them at school and home. Stories do not end here. Some of them can make Little Brother look tame.
So what do you do? Apart from panicking and biting nails, that is.
For starters, unplug your web cam cable whenever it is not in use. No software can plug your cable back and use your web cam. If you cannot unplug the webcam, like in a laptop, cover it using tape. If you do not want the tape residue on the lens, then at least cover it with an old sock.
Same goes for your internet connection too. Disable it when it is not in use. Not having a device connected to any network would be the only way to prevent broadcasting data from your system.