Just so You Know - Laptop Camera Security

We all to think that what we do in our own homes is nobody’s business but our own. That’s why you may be surprised to learn that malicious individuals and even some large corporations may be spying on you without your knowledge.

Hackers Can Take Over Your Webcam

Here’s the disturbing truth. Your webcam, that little tiny camera embedded on your laptop just above the screen, could be used to spy on you. A malicious individual or even a large corporation can break into your computer, turn on your webcam, and take photos and video of you without your knowledge or consent.

To take control of your camera, a bad actor would first have to get control of your computer. But that doesn’t mean that you turn on your computer and see it doing all kinds of things on its own. A hacker could take control of your computer and make it do things in the background that you would never notice.

The problem starts when a hacker loads RAT software on your computer. RAT stands for Remote Administration Tools, and it means that the hacker can run processes on your computer from wherever they are. The RAT software gets onto your computer like any other virus or malware. The most common way for viruses and malware to access your computer is when you receive an email and click on a link, or when you download something from the internet.

Why Cover Your Webcam

There are a few ways to protect yourself. The first, most foolproof way to protect yourself is just to cover up your webcam. Place a piece of tape or a sticky note over your webcam when you’re not using it. Just make sure it is something that you can remove when you want to use your webcam, and that won’t leave residue that could obscure the picture.

If you think that sounds a bit like overkill, you might want to look at people who know a lot more about internet security than most. We know from photos and interviews that both Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and former F.B.I. Chief James Comey both cover their webcams when they aren’t in use. In fact, Zuckerberg also covers his microphone.

The fact is, Zuckerberg and Comey are more likely targets of hacking than your average computer user. However, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore the threat. There is actually a whole subculture of hackers who make a pastime of hacking and spying on random individuals. Sometimes, if they find something really private, they may even turn to blackmail and extortion. That’s what happened to Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf back in 2013 when a hacker took revealing photos of her in her bedroom with a commandeered webcam.

Other Ways to Protect Yourself

In addition to covering your webcam, there are some other tips to keep you safe online.

  • Close your laptop whenever you’re not using it. Hackers can’t see you if your laptop is closed.
  • Never open an email from a sender you don’t recognize.
  • Avoid clicking a link in an email, even if you recognize the sender. Hackers can spoof email addresses and make it look like an email originates from someone in your contacts list.
  • Keep all of your software, your browser, and all of your extensions up to date. The most common reason for an update is to repair a potential security loophole.
  • Regularly check your computer for malware and always run an antivirus program in the background.
  • Keep your firewall enabled at all times.
  • Never download anything from the internet unless you are 100% sure it is from a reliable site. Avoid free downloads of software, music, or videos. They are often jam-packed with malware and viruses.
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