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FriendlyPC Q&A: Should I cover my webcam?

After Mark Zuckerberg was shown with tape covering his computer’s webcam, you’ve probably heard about the practice more and more. It may seem like a weird thing to do, but it’s another effective step in protecting your privacy. Gaining access to a person’s webcam isn’t too difficult for a hacker, and while it’s not known how often it happens, it happens enough that you should take precautions. The worst thing you can do is think it can never happen to you!

What’s webcam hacking and why is it a thing?

Hackers gain access to a computer or phone’s webcam and often use the embarrassing footage or sensitive information to blackmail the person, usually by extorting them for money. Creepy, right?

So just how does it happen?

The most common way for hackers to record you without your knowledge would be for them to have access to take over your computer. Typically they gain access installing RAT (Remote Administration Tools) software on your machine after you opened an email attachment. And unfortunately, after this occurs, you won’t even know if your webcam is running because your LED light won’t activate, because it is possible to bypass.

Another way they can get in is by clickjacking. They’ll create an ad, and if you click on it, an invisible script placed in the ad activates the webcam, another script disables the light.

How do I make sure this doesn’t happen to me?

  • Keep your software up-to-date, including web browsers, plugins, and Adobe Flash.
  • Enabled your firewall (and keep it that way!)
  • Secure your wifi at home by using WPA2+ encryption and SSID masking. Learn how to secure your wifi here.
  • Shut your laptop when you’re not using it.
  • Shut down your devices when you’re not using them (having your device left on all day increases the likelihood of a cyber hack).
  • Run your anti-virus often! And make sure it’s up-to-date. Concerned your device has already been compromised? Read more about common signs here.
  • Don’t open emails from people you don’t know that look suspicious. And never download an attachment if you don’t know them.
  • And yes, take the Zuckerberg route and tape your webcam. It’s a simple way to get peace of mind.

What else do I have to worry about?

We mentioned covering your microphone — unfortunately recording you is becoming an increasingly common practice, especially with AI assistants like Google Home and Alexa becoming more and more prevalent in the home. Taping has proven to be ineffective against protecting against recording from your microphone, but try this simple trick from Mashable.

Sadly, it’s not just your computer you need to be mindful of. Your phone, home security cameras, and baby monitors are all susceptible to hacking as well. Find out how to secure those by clicking on the corresponding links to find out how to get started.

Hopefully, this information is a good starting point for you to protect your devices from potential hackers! As always, we are here to help you. So if you need help with any of this, give us a call or shoot us a message and we’ll make sure your computer is safe and secure.