Tech & The Web

Should You Cover Your Computer’s Built-In Webcam?

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For a couple of years now, I’ve had a piece of tape over my computer’s built-in webcam. Apparently, I’m not the only one.

“I saw something in the news, so I copied it.”

That’s how FBI Director James Comey described a little security measure he mentioned during a talk about privacy issues at Kenyon College in Ohio.

That “something” is taking a small piece of tape and covering the webcam on your desktop and laptop computers.

I find that gaffer’s tape works the best and is the least noticeable.

Silly me. All this time, I thought I was the only one paranoid enough to do such a thing.

Comey explained his reasoning this way: “Because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their camera.”

Here, I imagine, is where someone who’d view this as a total “conspiracy theorist” move might ask if he would have jumped off a cliff if he saw someone do that.

At issue here, however, according to OSXDaily, is “camfecting.” It is the process of attempting to hack into a person’s webcam and activate it without the webcam owner’s permission.

While we’d like to believe it could never happen, but this has actually happened. And it has been happening for years. A video from 2009 from the BBC describes how illegal Trojan software can allow a hacker to access your computer’s webcam. And worse: the same software can record every keystroke.

If, seven years later, the head of the FBI is putting a piece of tape over his computer’s webcam, that might just indicate that this is a serious enough issue that it’s at least worth considering.

Just to be safe.

Speaking of being safe, there are some ways to avoid Trojan software.

  1. Keep your virus software up to date. (Even Macs have been affected by viruses; hackers no longer focus “only” on PCs these days.)
  2. Make sure your software is up to date. Whenever you can, if you have the option for automatic updates, it might be worth considering just to make sure a critical security update doesn’t slip past your attention, potentially leaving you vulnerable to a security risk.
  3. Never open an email, an attachment or a piece of downloaded software if you aren’t certain of the source. It’s possible a simple double-click of the wrong file can install a Trojan horse virus on your machine, leaving you and your data vulnerable to prying eyes.

Do you cover your computer dashcam? Are you thinking about it now?

5 Comments

  1. Patrick,

    Thanks for bringing this into my notice. This is really a serious security issue and apparently, we can’t do muct about it. 
    Installing Anti-Virus is one thing we can do but hackers are smarter, they keep updating their trojen.

    Regards
    Alam
    http://cheaperasp.net/

  2. patricksplace We recommend Avast for Mac. Free and it does a nice job of protecting the Mac OS. We have had a few Macs come into our support center that have had viruses. Not a lot, but we are seeing an increase in those happening. Certainly PCs are the highest percentage of infections usually with many infections.

  3. havertyj Which antivirus program would you recommend for MacOS? For so long, Mac users thought they had a “free pass” since it seemed that viruses only really targeted PCs. These days, it sounds like this is less and less the case.

  4. We work on a lot of computers for students where I work. We see computers come through with cameras tapped up. Keeping antivirus current and OS updated will prevent camfecting from happening. We do see computers that come through that do have trojans and the webcam is being used to solicit payment to have the trojan removed.

    At this point, no, I will likely not start covering up the camera on my desktop PC or on my MacBook Air.

Comments are closed.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.