Are you being watched?

A new study shows that your computer's webcam might not be as secure as you think.

Are you being watched?
Image credit: Shutterstock

The idea of hackers using your webcam's camera to watch you is a scary thought, and unfortunately it's true. For years now more and more cases of people being spied on through their webcams have been showing up.

Most electronic devices today come with a camera installed to take photos – some devices even come with two or more cameras. Think about all the things you do in front of your computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet. What could someone see if they were watching through your cameras at any given moment? The answer is probably a lot. Combined with the microphone, these devices could give hackers access to anything from bank details you might mention in the same room as your laptop to embarrassing pictures of you strolling naked around your bedroom.

The small LED lights that are located next to most webcams are supposed to turn on whenever the camera is being used, and they have long been considered impenetrable to hacking attempts. Unfortunately a new study, conducted at Johns Hopkins University, has found otherwise. Apple's webcams used to be a shining example of an impenetrable defence to this method of hacking, but computer science professor Stephen Checkoway and graduate student Matthew Brocker have found a way around this security measure, and if they can, hackers can as well.

So what can you do to protect yourself from these attacks? The most important answer is to install the latest antivirus software, and luckily you can get protection for free. But even the latest in antivirus software doesn't mean your computer can't be infiltrated,so if you want to ensure that your cameras can't be hacked the simple fix is to stick a piece of paper over them. Not even the best hackers in the world can combat a small piece of paper taped over the camera lens.

Read Checkoway and Brocker's study iSee You: Disabling the Macbook Webcam Indicator LED


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    normie 39
    16th Jan 2014
    Thanks for this interesting article. Does it apply to Skype?

    Normie 39
    16th Jan 2014
    Post It note in place!
    Madam Wu
    16th Jan 2014
    Be careful before you "promote" third party software...I installed Sophos and found that it has a terminal memory leak!

    M Wu
    17th Jan 2014
    I don't think I need to worry about my computer spying on me it would be a big dissapointment to any watcher to see me sitting staring into the screen full of emails or a stupid facebook game.Trying to work our what they are doing or whatever, as I am blind in one eye it sometimes takes me a long time to move to the next email.

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