Tuesday

Sneaky Webcam Hijinks

If you have a reasonably recent laptop computer, it probably has a built-in webcam. A webcam (web camera) works with communications software like Skype, so that the other party can see your smiling mug, and typically you can see them too. The integrated webcam is usually so unobtrusive you may not have realized you have one - you may only see a little glass or plastic lens on your laptop lid:

While the webcam is a useful accessory, it can be used to "spy" on unwitting computer users. Yes, it really can; there are types of malware (and other methods) that can allow others to view your webcams output over the Internet. There are quite a lot of examples of this and without being paranoid, it probably makes sense to at least think about what someone might see, if they really wanted to.
 
The easiest solution to this is to unplug the webcam when it's not being used, if it's a plug-in device. If it's built-in like on the example above, you can put a little stick or piece of tape over it (you want to avoid directly getting the sticky material on the lens itself, of course).

You can also be a bit more scientific if you like, such as disabling the device or turning off the webcam in the computer's BIOS - although I would tend to stick with the good old "piece of tape" solution myself. It's easy to see that the tape is in place, and it's quickly reversible.

There are even little covers you can purchase to put over the lens if you like, but I am too cheap to indulge in something like that. Truthfully, my laptop's webcam currently has a piece of scotch tape across it, and I scribbled some black magic marker on top of that. So there.

HowToGeek has some more information about the potential problems, and some of the solutions, including the more techie ones, if you feel so inclined.

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