Eavesdropping. It used to be something we did to people who shared the same space with us before text messages was a thing. We would put our ear against the door and desperately tried to pick up any parts we could of the secret conversation in the next room. Nowadays, we can have a conversation with a friend about the new Kanye West album, and then as soon as we go into Facebook, what do you know? An ad for that Yeezus album comes up.
But eavesdropping for marketing purposes, although not the most pleasant or comfortable, isn’t what you should be most concerned about. When it comes to eavesdropping, the greatest risk involves hackers getting their hands on your personal information, such as credit card numbers, passwords, etc.
And it isn’t just PCs and mobile phones that are susceptible to mic hacking. Apple had to disable its audio chat feature from its smartwatches due to a vulnerability found allowing hackers to take over the mic in the smartwatch.
The reason is that downloaded apps have more potential software vulnerabilities whereas web browsers are generally more ‘immune’ to these types of attacks. For instance, Zoom, Google Hangout, Skype, and many more have the option to have calls on the web browser without downloading their programs.
We recommend going over all your apps and turning off the ones that you don’t use often, yet have access granted to your mic and camera.
On an iOS device: Settings > Privacy > Camera > Click the toggle next to each app to revoke or allow permission. Repeat the same under the “Microphone” menu.
On an Android phone: Go to Settings > Apps or Apps & Notifications > Advanced > App permissions > Camera > Click the toggle next to each app to revoke or allow permission. Repeat the same under the “Microphone” menu.
On a Mac: Go to Settings > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Camera > Uncheck the box next to an app to revoke permission. Repeat the same under the “Microphone” menu.
On a PC: Go to Settings > Privacy > Camera > Turn off Camera access choose individual apps and decide on their permissions. Repeat the same under the “Microphone” menu.
Updating your app and device software when a new version rolls out is crucial in avoiding mic hacking and ensuring your device stays safe. For example in Zoom, which is one of the most used platforms nowadays, you can check the site’s Download Center to check for updates or in the app, click “zoom.us” in the top left corner and select “Check for Updates”.
Getting a security protection that includes protection from your mic and camera being taken over (or Man-in-the-Middle attacks) is crucial, such as ZoneAlarm Extreme Security.