How easy it is for someone to hack into your webcam
Is it really possible to hack into your laptop camera? Yes, Here are several ways it can be done and how to protect yourself!
If you've ever looked into your webcam lens and wondered if a hacker is looking back, it's more likely than you may think. Cyber criminals have multiple tools in their arsenal they can use to hack into your webcams.
Here are three ways of viewing a webcam without your knowledge, and simple ways you can protect yourself.
How Easy Is It to Hack a Webcam?
So, how easy is it for someone to hack your webcam? In short, it's not incredibly easy. It's not like a hacker can locate and access your webcam without some aid. However, if a hacker gains a foothold on your PC or laptop, it should be a simple job for them to peer through your webcam at you.
How do people hack webcams? A hacker either takes advantage of existing spy software, exploits an internet connectivity feature, or uses a Trojan virus to enter your system.
1. Gaining Access Using Spy Software
Remote Administration Tools (RATs) are often installed in corporate environments to help upgrade, configure, and track machines remotely.
In 2010, two high schools in the Lower Merion School District had lawsuits against them for using the remote monitoring features of an application called LANrev without students' knowledge.
The laptops were owned by the school and used by the students for home study. However, the security software installed on these machines contained Theft Track, which enabled the administrators to view the webcams remotely.
There were claims that the feature was only used in cases of reported laptop theft. However, many students reported briefly seeing the webcam indicator light flicker on, causing some to tape over the camera.
The district later admitted 56,000 images of the students had been taken. A newer version of the software has since been released, which has this feature removed.
If you're worried that your school or work laptop is spying on you, put some tape over the camera. That way, if someone does gain access, they don't see anything.
It's worth noting that you can't fully rely on the light that tells you when the camera is on. As reported by The Conversation, it's possible to disable it.
2. Exploiting a Webcam's Internet Connectivity
A webcam that connects to another device over the internet is a convenient way to check up on your home while you're out. A lot of smart home security kits offer surveillance cameras you can access from anywhere to spot burglars. You can also turn a webcam into a home surveillance tool using special software.
However, internet-connected devices are a double-edged sword, as they can give hackers a route into your home.
For peace of mind, do not purchase webcams that offer you remote access through Wi-Fi.
And don't be tempted to set up third-party software that allows you to spy through your webcam remotely, or it may backfire on you.
3. Gaining Access Via Trojans
If a hacker cannot use an existing entry point to your webcam, they can create one instead. This is the easiest method for hackers, as they don't need to look for victims; instead, the victims come to them.
To do this, a cyber criminal will trick you into installing a Trojan, which purports to be useful software but actually opens a backdoor for malicious activity. This might be through an email attachment, a rogue webpage, or a fake Microsoft employee claiming to fix your virus-infected Windows machine (which wasn't infected, but now is).
Once the attacker has installed their Trojan rootkit on your machine, they can use it to install remote access software on your computer. Now they can use your device without you knowing—including peering through your webcam.
How to Protect Yourself From Webcam Hacking
The above points are enough to make you eye your webcam with suspicion. In truth, it's straightforward to make sure that nobody is spying through your camera.
Keep Your Webcam As "Dumb" As Possible
You can purchase a webcam or home surveillance system that keeps tabs on your home while you're out. The problem is, a hacker can also use anything you can to see into your home.
The best way to keep your hardware safe from hackers is not to make it "smart"—that is, get an ordinary webcam. Don't buy one offering the ability to log on from anywhere in the world to access footage inside your home.
Keep Your Computer's Security Updated
Even if you can't connect to your webcam via the internet, hackers can still use your PC as a staging ground with malware.
That's why it's so important to download a dependable antivirus, keep it up to date, and give your PC a scan every so often. A good security suite will spot intrusions and protect you from a hacker's attack.
Only Connect or Enable the Webcam When You're Using It
If you have a USB webcam, be sure to unplug it when you're not using it. No matter how good a hacker is, they can't look through your webcam if it's not physically plugged in. When it's time to show your face to the world, plug the webcam back in. Remember to unplug it again once you're done.
This is easier said than done if you own a laptop. Laptops typically have a webcam located just above the screen, which you can't physically unplug. However, you can tell your computer to disable it so that no programs use it.
However, it is worth noting that if a hacker has enough control over your laptop, they may have the power to tell your computer to re-enable your webcam again.
Cover the Webcam Lens Until You Need It
A hacker may be smart enough to breach your defenses and enable your webcam, but if something covers the lens, all that effort would be for naught. After all, even the best hackers can't see through tape without X-ray vision!
If you don't intend to use your webcam anytime soon, you can put some tape or sticky putty over it to block its vision. If you need it later, it should be easy enough to remove the obstruction before you go online.
If you need your webcam for family calls and remote work, you can purchase webcam sliding covers. These stick over your laptop's webcam and act as a little door. When you need to show your face, open the door and let the webcam see you; once your meeting is over, shut it again and enjoy your privacy once more.
Keeping Yourself Safe From Webcam Hacking
Is it easy to hack a webcam? Yes, if you give the hacker the tools they need to get into it. However, there are plenty of steps you can take to stop that from happening, and if all else fails, just cover it up!
You've sorted out your fear of spies looking at you, but now you have another terror to deal with: looking presentable during those remote meetings. Fortunately, there's plenty you can do to spruce yourself up before those video calls.