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Knock, Knock! Is Anyone In There? How To Tell If Your Webcam Has Been Compromised

Published: October 14, 2023 on our newsletter Security Fraud News & Alerts Newsletter.

Sometimes, does it always feel like someone is watching you? Does your television turn on in the middle of the night? Do you feel eyes on you when you’re at the computer? Your television issue might just be a problem with the remote. But, the computer eeriness? That might actually be someone wanting to launch a ransomware attack or it could be a Peeping Tom. Detecting whether your webcam has been hacked is crucial for protecting your privacy and security, so we are here to help.

Here are some signs that your webcam might have been compromised and steps to prevent webcam hacking from happening in the first place:

Unexpected Activation Light: Most webcams have an LED indicator that turns on when the camera is in use. If you notice this light turning on when you're not using the webcam or when you didn’t activate it, it's a clear sign something is amiss.

Strange Sounds: Sometimes, hackers can also enable the microphone. If you hear unfamiliar sounds or voices from your computer's speakers when you're not using them, it's a red flag.

Cursor Movements: Your cursor might start moving erratically or doing things you didn't command. Webcam hacking can be part of a broader system compromise.

Unexpected Icons, Browser Extensions, or Software: If you notice any of these, it could be a sign an intruder installed them.

Pop-ups Popping Up: If these just start popping up all over the place, someone could be in there.

You don’t just have to accept that your webcam is going to be compromised sooner or later. There are things you can do to prevent it.

Keep Software Updated: Ensure your operating system, antivirus, and webcam drivers are up to date. Updates often include security patches and if they do, apply them right away.

Cover the Lens: Physically covering the webcam lens with a sticker or a dedicated webcam cover when not in use is an effective, low-tech and low-cost solution.

Use Reliable Antivirus: Install reputable antivirus software that includes real-time monitoring of your webcam and microphone. It can alert you to unauthorized access attempts. Run it regularly to catch malicious infections.

Review App Permissions: When installing new apps, review their permissions. Deny access to your webcam unless it's crucial for the app's functionality. In fact, give every app you install the lowest level of access possible for it to work for you.

Disable Remote Access: Many webcams and cameras come with the option to enable or disable remote access. If you don't need this feature, turn it off.

Beware of Phishing: Avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading email attachments from unknown sources. Webcam hacking can be initiated through phishing attacks.

Change Default Passwords: One of the first items on your agenda when getting any new hardware is to change the default password. Several years ago, hackers used webcams that still had the default passwords on them to launch Distributed Denial of Service attacks against organizations such as Amazon, GitHub, and what was then called Twitter.

By staying vigilant and following these precautions, you can significantly reduce the risk of webcam hacking and protect your privacy and personal data. Always remember that being proactive about cybersecurity is the best defense against such threats.

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