With the huge increase of people working from home due to Covid-19, millions of home laptops and desktops are laying around open, and with Zoom calls demanding our cameras to be open, webcam hacking even is a hot commodity for hackers these days. Webcam hacking, or ‘camfecting’ (camera + infecting), is a hacking technique that enables the hacker to remotely take control over another person’s webcam, without that person’s knowledge or permission.
Considering Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg covers his very own computer camera, you should probably protect yours too, especially in light of recent webcam-related program breaches, such as Zoom’s latest security breach.
But it’s not just laptop and desktop cameras that are at risk. Mobile phone camera hacking is also possible, and with newer phones that have cameras in both the front and back, it is even easier to hack and gives more information to the hacker.
How can someone gain access to my webcam?
Webcam hacking typically occurs when a computer is infected with a specific Trojan virus that’s aimed to grant access to a person’s webcam, usually through an application that the user intended to download. When the user installs the application, the virus installs itself, and the hacker behind it can gain access to the webcam and record pictures and videos from it.
Two common ways to download the application are first through remote administrative tool (RAT), such as email, and second through false remote tech sessions, like those for support.
How do I know if someone hacked my webcam?
- Look for audio or video recordings on your device.
- Run a malware scan, such as ZoneAlarm Extreme Security.
- Check your browser extensions to see if anything suspicious is installed.
- See if the camera indicator light is turned on while your camera is off.
Because oftentimes the virus can work by not showing you that the camera is on (i.e. the camera light is off), it is hard to tell when you’ve been hacked. An example would be the FBI, who used this tactic to catch a suspect related to several bomb threats in 2013.
What are some dangers associated with having my webcam hacked?
As interesting and appealing you may think you are, hackers are less interested in your personal life for entertainment reasons. They could, however, snap sensitive photos of you in order to extort money from you. At the end of the day, they care about financial gain.
Picture the following scenario: You’re in your home and you had just ordered groceries over the phone. You give the store not only your credit card details, but your full name, phone number, and the address to your house. The hacker now has everything they need from you to steal your identity and finances, and may even learn what times you’re not home to try to physically break in.
How do I protect my webcam and prevent hackers from taking over it?
- Cut the source: First and foremost, download an antivirus software, such as ZoneAlarm Extreme Security. It not only protects you from viruses, but blocks all types of malware that can infect your computer and mobile device with a whole array of attacks. Avoiding getting the virus infection to begin with is the most crucial part.
- Run a thorough malware scan, such as that of ZoneAlarm Extreme Security antivirus.
- Get a webcam privacy software, such as Stop Being Watched or Webcamlock. They alert you when someone tries to gain access to your camera, allowing you to approve or disapprove the action. The downside to these programs is that viruses are getting more and more tricky, and so in the future they may be able to bypass that part.
- Get a sliding lens cover. It costs pennies, and can be opened only when you’re using the camera. Even a black tape over the camera will do. However, if you conduct business meetings over the web, the hacker may still have access to your camera during those times the lens is open, and sensitive information may be at risk.
- Turn off your devices when they’re not in use (sleep mode doesn’t count).