Watch Your Webcam: What Hackers Are Doing With Your Camera

We’ve all seen it on TV: Cops processing a scene, while to their ignorance a laptop stays open so the perpetrator can watch their investigation; or in reverse, when government computer analysts break into the criminal’s webcam to find their suspect. Every crime show has a scene like this! What you might notice is that all of these scenarios revolve around the technology to break into another’s Internet-connected device and turn on their webcam remotely, without their knowledge or permission.

The bad news is that this kind of remote takeover really does exist. Threat actors can, and do, hack into webcams for nefarious purposes. It’s a huge breach of privacy and, worse, difficult to notice at first unless the camera has a blinking light to indicate when it’s on. Until you see programs crashing and your Internet running slow, you might not even notice a virtual intruder.

The good news? This blog will tell you exactly what you can do to mitigate the threat of a hacker accessing the cameras on any of your devices.

Why Hackers Want Webcams

Hackers may have any number of reasons to illegally access your webcam: Blackmail, gleaning information about you, or for their own perverse entertainment. They can sell the footage they steal on the Dark Web, too. Often, webcam hacking not only costs you your privacy, but additionally a ransom, to stop them from leaking what they’ve found out from spying.

Unfortunately, the Internet of Things (IoT) has made their jobs easier in some ways. IoT devices connect to the local network but typically have far fewer defenses against cyber-attacks than your computer, so hackers can (and often do!) target those first to break into the network. Then they can more easily take over devices that have cameras connected, which may be your laptop; but could also include your Ring doorbellsmart TVsmartphone and any other WiFi-connected device you have!

Protecting Your Privacy

There are a few simple steps you can take to prevent your webcam from becoming a weapon against you.

  • Cover your webcam! You can buy stickers that easily slide over when you need to show your face in a meeting
  • Antivirus software automatically scans and detects unauthorized behavior and malware on your computer
  • Don’t click on links in any suspicious or unexpected messages
  • Unplug externally connected webcams unless you’re actively using them
  • Password protect IoT devices connected to your local network
  • Cover your webcam! You can buy stickers that easily slide over when you need to show your face in a meeting
  • Antivirus software automatically scans and detects unauthorized behavior and malware on your computer
  • Don’t click on links in any suspicious or unexpected messages
  • Unplug externally connected webcams unless you’re actively using them
  • Password protect IoT devices connected to your local network
  • Download software updates ASAP for both your computer and its programs

Some cameras show a light when they’re turned on; others will be more difficult to detect. Prevent webcam hacking in your home with some of these tips for staying safe.

Conclusion

Your home and work spaces should be a private place for you to spend time. Hackers shouldn’t be gazing through your webcam anymore than you want them poking around internally on the computer. Learning how and why and where criminals may gain access to the camera on ANY of your Internet-connected devices is the first step to increasing your daily cyber-safety. Now you can recognize and report suspicious activity!

You deserve to feel safe and at peace in front of your computer. Follow our blog for biweekly tips on cybersecurity, breaking industry news and so much more!

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