All living creatures have the notion of safety encoded in their DNA. Human beings have evolved; we live in the augmented era where people work hand in hand with machines. Your safety does not stop with you; it extends to your digital devices.
Digital devices, i.e., tablets, smartphones, and computers, are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The scope of cybercrimes being committed is alarming. Every year new cyber threats arise; hackers are evolving and finding new techniques to weaken your digital defense.
In the modern-day digital landscape, one particularly dangerous attack vector has been on the rise, one where criminals gain unauthorized control of your computer webcam or phone camera and activate it without your permission or knowledge.
In this article, we will cover the following topics.
What is webcam hacking?
Webcam hacking, also popularly known as camfecting, is when a hacker infiltrates your computer’s defenses and uses your webcam to spy on you. Webcam hacking does not stop at your computers. Hackers can also infiltrate your tablets, smartphones even baby monitors.
According to the Huffington Post, a couple in Ohio heard an unfamiliar voice in their 3-year-old son’s room. A hacker had infiltrated the baby camera and had been spying on their son. It is frightening that someone somewhere can intrude on your privacy without you even knowing.
A high-profile webcam hacking case happened in 2013, where a classmate hacked Cassidy Wolf’s (Miss Teen USA) webcam. He spied on her and threatened to post photos of her to the public if she did not undress for him in front of the webcam. If you don’t want to experience these awful crimes, keep reading this article, and I will take you through steps you can deploy to be vigilant about your webcam security.
Ways you can find out if someone has hacked your webcam.
Before we can learn how to prevent computer camera hacking, let us first know how to detect someone spying on you through your webcam.
1) Watch the indicator light of your computer camera:
Always remember to check the behavior of your camera light indicator. If the light keeps flickering consider this to be the first sign of webcam hacking. Although in some instances, the light might flicker because of background apps or hardware issues. In case that is not the case, then be vigilant and employ security measures.
2) Backcheck your computer storage files:
Once in a while, go through your storage files to check if new files have popped up that were not created by you or your computer apps. In case someone is spying on you using your camera, the computer will store some data. Accessing your webcam recording files will show you any new audio or video files that have been created.
3) Scan for malware:
Running a malware check is vital for two reasons; First, it will show you the vulnerability level of your computer apps, including your webcam apps. Second, it will show you malware that is already on your computer.
4) Check your computer camera settings:
If someone has hacked your computer camera, they would have to alter one or more of your camera settings to favor them. Check to see if something is out of place.
5) Check for any suspicious apps:
If you were to download malware by mistake, your computer camera would be vulnerable to attacks. The malware masquerades itself as an app on your computer. So be on the lookout for mysterious apps you did not download.
6) Observe your camera:
With recent advancements in technology, some cameras are designed to move. When a hacker is spying on you, he might have to make the camera move to get a better view or angle. If your camera moves without you intending it to, this is a sign of computer camera hacking.
7) Check on your data flow:
Try and keep records or estimate your data flow during your online sessions. If you notice an influx in your data usage, then you should be concerned.
8) Try testing your webcam:
Before you try using your camera, consider shutting down other running apps and programs. Try and use the camera now, and if you get a notification indicating your camera is in use, this is a cause for concern.
Camfecting is an awful form hackers use to intrude on other people’s privacy. Trust me; it’s a terrible experience that might even tempt you to stop using any internet-accessible device. Instead of taking such severe measures, as promised, I will show you how you can avoid becoming a victim of a computer or smartphone camera hack.
How to protect yourself from webcam hacking?
It takes a solid line of defense and caution to prevent cyber-attacks. Let us go over some steps you can take to reduce your chances of becoming a victim significantly.
1) Install and update your anti-virus.
The first line of defense is to install a licensed anti-virus if you don’t have one already. Ensure you keep your anti-virus up-to-date to be able to counter new malware or spyware. Having a top-quality anti-virus ensures that it detects and eradicates malware threats earlier before becoming too risky. You need to make sure your anti-virus is up to date and keep your software updated.
2) Protect your Wi-Fi and avoid using public Wi-Fi.
Public Wi-Fi is mostly unprotected and provides easy access to hackers. Hackers can take advantage of this and gain access to your system. Also, many people tend not to secure their home Wi-Fi, often using very easy or company default passwords. Hackers target weak Wi-Fi networks because they’re easy to access. Hackers can access your data such as emails, saved bank accounts, social media info, webcam, and more through your Wi-Fi network.
The steps below will show you how you can better secure your Wi-Fi network:
- On your router page, create a name and a secure password, then select security settings and select the latest most secure encryption provided (WPA2).
- There will be more optional settings below. Select and choose them to fit your needs.
- After you are done ensure, you click on save and when you are required to update your information.
- Always remember that lengthier passwords with special characters or numbers are harder to break. Avoid creating obvious names for your router that can be linked to your actual address or name.
Watch this video by Google that goes over securing your Wi-Fi network.
3) Set up your firewall.
Like its name, a firewall puts up a wall to defend your network by monitoring traffic exchange. Think of it as a security guard trying to keep the bad guys out. Most computers come with a firewall already preinstalled. Although computers come with firewalls, it is your responsibility to ensure that the firewall feature is turned on.
Below are some simple steps you can follow on a windows machine to turn on your firewall.
- Select the Start button > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Security and then Firewall & network protection. Open Windows Security settings
- Select a network profile.
- Under Microsoft Defender Firewall, switch the setting to On.
There you go. If you follow the steps correctly, your network defender should be on.
If you are using any other operating systems besides Windows, a simple google search should show you detailed steps on how to turn on the firewall feature or to verify that your firewall feature has been turned on
4) Steer clear of suspicious links.
Hackers use tricks to get you to download malware and gain access to your device, including your webcam. Avoid clicking on mysterious links in download files, especially from untrustworthy websites, emails from organizations or people you don’t know, and following links provided on media sites from random people.
Note: A smart way to download apps or software is to get the apps from licensed websites.
5) Avoid sharing personal information with strangers online.
Cybercriminals commonly use online forums or social media sites to communicate with you and trick you into giving them information about yourself.
Here are some safety tips you can consider when chatting online:
- Never share personal details such as birthdates, home address, school, or workplace details with random strangers online. Hackers will use this information to access your accounts.
- Use fake/made-up names when chatting on open online forums unless it’s with people you trust or business organizations.
- Avoid visiting unsafe websites. For example, peer-to-peer sites or pornography sites, these kinds of websites have an extremely high likelihood of exposing your device to malware.
6) Cover your webcam.
Mark Zuckerberg admitted he covers his webcam with a tape. You can cover your webcam with an opaque object when you are not using it. Covering your webcam with an object is a low-tech solution with a high-security effect.
What to do if you find out that your webcam has been hacked?
In the instance you are hacked, what do you do? It is essential to stay calm. The following steps can help you better navigate the situation if you ever find yourself to be the victim of a webcam or phone cam attack.
1) Disconnect your camera.
The first thing to do is disconnect your camera. If it is an external camera, you should unplug it. If it is an internal camera, you need to disable it. This can be done by checking the settings on your device and turning off the camera, and denying all applications access to it.
2) Change your passwords.
Reset all your passwords; if the hacker can breach your webcam security, there is a pretty good chance he has access to some of your other data. When changing your passwords, avoid reusing the same password or something close to it.
3) Scan for malware.
Open your computer anti-virus and scan for malware. If the hacker has not yet established complete control of your device, you can retrieve your control by scanning and eradicating all malware. While you scan for malware, check for back door access (tools they can use to get back in).
4) Report to authorities.
If the hacker has demanded something or is trying to extort you, report the incident to the nearest cyber counter agency or police to seek help.
In a nutshell, safety in this era extends to your digital devices. Be vigilant and cautious to avoid being targeted by cybercriminals. Following the measures outlined in this article is an excellent start to affirming your security online.