Can cybercriminals spy on you through your webcam? Here’s why you should cover it up.
You don’t have to look far to find a webcam. They’re on your laptop, tablet, and smartphone. It’s great to be able to video chat with distant relatives or friends, but webcams also can pose a danger to your privacy and security.
A cybercriminal could potentially gain access to your webcam to record sights and sounds related to you. You might think you’d recognise if someone did that with your device, but there are ways a hacker can disable the LED light that normally signals your webcam is in use, even when it’s running.
Why do people cover their webcam? Many people cover up their webcam because one never knows who could be on the other end watching. If a snoop gains access to your webcam, they might gather footage to extort, blackmail, or cause mayhem in your life.
For example, A 37-year-old resident from Mulund received an email with a stranger claiming to have access to his browsing history, which included pornographic content. The blackmailer then demanded money, otherwise threatening to forward the clips to his family and friends.1
More than 44,000 cybercrime cases were reported from 2012 to 2019 in India,2 but not many were Sextorions (webcam blackmailing).3 These cases don’t usually come to light because the victim’s private information is often in jeopardy. That doesn't mean users aren’t victimised on a daily basis; they are. Hackers might be awaiting to hijack your webcam and blackmail you for money; you never know.
The good news? It’s an easy cyberthreat to protect against if you know what you’re doing. Here’s a look at reasons to cover your Webcam, what might happen if you don’t, and six tips you can use to improve your webcam security.
Why Should You Cover Webcam?
Cyberthieves seek ways to target and steal information. Cyber criminals may hijack online bank accounts, steal financial data used for online shopping, or break into social media accounts.4
But you may have noticed a piece of tape over a co-worker’s or a friend’s webcam lately. That’s because cyberthreats can target webcams, too.
The same viruses and malware that can steal information from your devices can also embed software that can record whatever a webcam sees. These activities can take place in the comfort of your home or the privacy of your workplace. If used for malicious purposes, a webcam could record sensitive moments or material and send the recordings back to cybercriminals, assisted by your infected device.
The collected material can be used for various purposes, like blackmail, identity theft, or to cause a victim distress. The cyberthreat of an exposed webcam can have a very real-life impact on whoever it affects.
What could happen if your webcam is vulnerable?
If you don’t take precautions to secure your webcam, your privacy and online security might not be as strong as they could be.
There are two types of common webcams, each having different vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could exploit:
Wireless webcams: These cameras use wireless connectivity to connect to your laptop or computer, but that also means they have an IP address and a password. Often, when the consumer purchases and sets up the webcam, they leave the password as the default option instead of setting up a unique complex password of their own. That means anyone who can find the IP address might easily guess the password and be able to access the device.
Built-in webcams: These cameras are built into your laptop or tablet and are handy for video conversations. But suppose your device gets a virus or malware. In that case, cybercriminals could easily take over the webcam functionality and turn it on or off as they wish, and disable the LED light to avoid detection.
A smartphone’s front-facing webcam typically isn’t considered a security risk. That’s because when you’re not using it, it’s usually tucked away in your purse or pocket.
But it’s not the same with wireless or built-in webcams. Cybercriminals can access these cameras, and because of their positions — facing your living room, kitchen, or office — they can expose your privacy and sensitive conversations.
That’s why it’s a good idea to cover up your webcam when they’re not in use or take other steps to improve your internet security.
6 tips to improve webcam privacy and security
Covering your webcam is an easy trick to avoid someone spying on you. But it doesn’t wholly address the need for internet security. Plus, putting a tape over your webcam doesn’t mean someone won’t still listen in through the microphone.
Here are six tips you can use to help improve your webcam and device security.
Get antivirus software. Built-in webcams can be hacked with common viruses and malware. Antivirus software can help you better protect your device against these cyberthreats.
For example, Norton Security Software helps prevent infectious applications from accessing your computer's webcam without your consent.5 It automatically blocks any spyware trying to extract information from your device, helping prevent possible webcam breaches.
Make sure your firewall is running. Firewalls act as a gate, ensuring only legitimate traffic makes it to your network and your built-in webcam.
Change the password on your wireless webcam.Thousands of wireless webcams are out there with the same default password coded into them by their manufacturer. If you update the default password to something unique and complex, you can improve your webcam security.
Update your operating systems and software. Cybercriminals can compromise devices and download viruses onto them by exploiting vulnerabilities found in the operating system or popular software. Be sure you update to the latest versions to patch security flaws.
Avoid suspicious links or attachments. Cybercriminals often use phishing emails to deliver a webcam virus or malware.6 Only open emails and click on links or download attachments from addresses you trust.
Use a sliding webcam cover. It’s a simple solution – slide the cover when you want to talk face-to-face with someone and close it when you’re not using it.
Follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way to living a more private connected life.
Norton empowers people and families around the world to feel safer in their digital lives
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