It’s easy to dismiss those who warn against the perils of webcam spying as conspiracy theorists that see malicious online threats in every line of code, every click of the mouse and every flickering screen.
But in the case of webcams they are absolutely right. Victims of webcam hacks have seen images and videos of themselves, in various states of undress or in compromising situations, uploaded to voyeurism websites.
In just one example a Russian-based website was discovered a few years ago that had compromised 600 British cameras and more than 10,000 others from around the world. It was posting voyeuristic images and videos it had captured from these cameras.
And with hundreds of thousands webcams sold in many countries each year the perils are certainly real.
How easy is it to hack webcams?
Frighteningly easy is the simple answer.
- Many webcams are inherently vulnerable due to lack of security-by-design. They can be easily compromised by even inexperienced hackers.
- Malware designed to compromise webcams and provide attackers with remote control can be inserted in your computer via phishing attacks or websites that are infected.
- Some webcams manufactured in the Far East have had malware inserted into them during the manufacturing phase.
But it’s not only webcams that are easily hacked. There are many examples of ‘smart’ baby monitors also being hacked.
To give you some indication of how easy it is to hack webcams check the www.insecam.org
website. It provides access to live streams from online surveillance security cameras from all around the world.
The site doesn’t include private webcams but that said the internet protocol technology behind webcam security cameras and private webcams is the same.
How can you tell if some is spying on you?
- The clearest indicator is the little LED indicator light next to the camera is on, even when you’re not using it. However this signal can easily be disabled by even unsophisticated attackers.
- Other indicators which are a little more technical but difficult to hide include video and audio transmission from the webcam and webcam processes and services that are running.
How to keep the snoopers out
- A basic but often overlooked rule is to change the webcam’s password.
- When you’re not using the camera cover it up with some tape. It might seem amateurish but even Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s head honcho, does this. That said given his company’s huge give away of people’s personal data he has more than one very good reason for doing so.
- Regularly do an internet search of your webcam manufacturer to check for recently discovered vulnerabilities.
- Apply theses updates as soon as possible whether they are for webcam drivers or the webcam application.
- Use good security software such as BullGuard Internet Security which will detect and block malware designed to exploit webcams.