Should You Cover Your Laptop’s Webcam? Here’s What Cybersecurity Experts Have To Say

"I have no excuse for not taking this seriously."

Cover image via Wired

Webcams seem to be standard equipment on PCs these day

But did you ever stop to think that while you're staring at your screen, someone on the Internet might be staring back at you?

Image via The Irish Times

Last year, a photo of Mark Zuckerberg's laptop went viral on social media: people were intrigued most by the fact that he tapes over his webcam.

But the world's richest millennial isn't the only public figure to join the growing number of people in covering webcams.

Former FBI director James Comey.

Image via CNBC

Former FBI director James Comey said in an interview, "I put a piece of tape over the camera. Because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their camera."

He was most likely referring to Zuckerberg's photo.

Of course, it's easy to imagine hackers trying to access machines belonging to these public figures. Would they want to hack into a random person's laptop?

Image via Amazon

The answer, according to a hacker, is yes.

A hacker told BBC in 2013 that it's relatively easy to access someone's webcam. The said hacker admitted to hacking over 500 PCs and sold info to others for as low as a dollar.

"There's always pervs on the internet who want to buy female 'bots', and most likely if they want a webcam they take photos and sell it," the unnamed hacker said.

He revealed that access to a woman's webcam can be sold for USD1 (RM4.10), but the same amount could buy access to 100 computers owned by men.

Hackers do it using a type of malware, or malicious software, that lets them remotely hijack computers

Image via The Daily Dot

If you accidentally click a bad link or download the wrong file, that malware could contain executable code to turn on your webcam and send that video feed to a website or save it somewhere else. 

What's even scarier is that some hackers are capable of disabling the camera's LED light, so you'd never know your camera has been hijacked.

Hackers are known to exploit poor and predictable passwords used on Internet-connected cameras

A web-connected camera.

Image via Brainer Dispatch

Internet-connected webcams typically connect over Wi-Fi. Most have their own IP address, which enables remote access, letting you connect directly to the webcam from anywhere in the world. These webcams often come with weak, default passwords.

Mashable reported that hackers in China have been using a special software to hack into such webcams, which are commonly used as baby monitors and surveillance cameras in the home.

What do cybersecurity experts suggest we do?

Image via Metro

Joss Wright, a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute told BBC that installing the latest security and antivirus software could help.

In an interview with The Guardian, Matthew Green, an encryption expert at Johns Hopkins University who doesn't have the habit of covering his webcam thinks he should do it.

"I have no excuse for not taking this seriously... but at the end of the day, I figure that seeing me naked would be punishment enough," he said.

James Scott, senior fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology in the US, advised users to protect their PCs by installing firewall software from reputable companies.

The topic was heavily discussed in a Facebook video that went viral earlier this month

Should you tape over your webcam?

Should you put tape over your webcam?

Posted by Circuit Breaker on Saturday, October 28, 2017

"There are occasional bugs in web-based technologies that allow attackers to open your webcam and record video on it. Having it covered is a super cheap, super easy thing to do, and it is a signal to other people that you think about security," Tod Beardsley, research director at cybersecurity company Rapid7, said in the video.

So, should you cover your webcam?

It's up to you to make an informed decision. 

Logically speaking, if you don't want people watching you when you don't know it, the only thing that's a surefire method to make sure you aren't being recorded is to put a physical barrier over your webcam, right?

Prevention is better than cure, after all.

Do you keep your webcam covered? Let us know in the comments section below.

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