Do Mic and Webcam Blockers Actually Help Privacy?
Somebody’s watching you through your webcam right now. Blink twice if you get me.
What if I told you there is a Russian website you can go to and watch the live stream video of you? Go ahead. Try it out. Go to Insecam.com. You might not be on this one just yet, but tens of thousands people from all around the world are. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you, does it?
Turns out, there is a number of reasons webcam and microphone hacking is on the rise, and if you’re not aware of the problem and how to protect yourself, you can easily become a victim.
So, what’s in it for hackers?
Do they really just like watching random people doing random things? Applications for hijacked webcams are limitless: from selling your nudes on the Dark Web to blackmail and ‘sextortion’. Creepy, isn’t it? But how are hackers managing to hijack so many random cameras?
Well, all hackers exploit weakness. With cameras, the primary soft spot is the carelessness of the device’ owners who haven’t bothered to change their cameras’ passwords from the default. So, if you happen to be an owner of camera-equipped devices, like a home security system, a pet-cam, a baby monitor, you name it, we’ve got good advice for you:
Also, update the firmware as often as possible. Most importantly, think twice before buying the next fancy WiFi-enabled gizmo — anything that’s connected to the internet can be hacked.
Protect Yourself: The Hard Way
Well, what do you do with a camera that’s built in, like your laptop cam?
Sometimes the most simple solution is the best — just cover it with a piece of tape when you aren’t using it. Seems like a bit too much for you? Well, it’s definitely not too much for the FBI director and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, both of whom tape over their computer’s cameras.
FBI director and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, both of whom tape over their computer’s cameras.
Even if your laptop camera is taped up carefully, you still have a working mic someone might use for eavesdropping on you. What kind of interest could they possibly have in your chit-chatting? Think about it. You can easily disclose your credit card number, your business secrets — all the things that you may blurt out when you think there are no unauthorized ears around. To avoid this, deafen your computer by plugging a pair of the microphone-enabled earphones into your audio input.
Protect Yourself: The Soft Way
There are also some ways to protect yourself that don’t include forms of craftsmanship. As long as hackers can get control over your computer’s camera with the help of RATs — remote access Trojans — you should be protecting your computers from those malicious programs.
RATs are usually downloaded to your machine invisibly, bundled with the applications you install or downloaded after you’ve clicked on an infected email attachment, link or banner. Those RAT-carrying links and banners may come in the form of ‘malvertising’ — malicious advertising. You can detect them by the obnoxious clickbait phrases they use, like “congratulations, you won $10K!”
How do you protect your computer from being RAT-infested?
- Keep your antivirus software up to date. Hackers are rather prolific and hard-working guys, so new viruses are being released every day. You’ve got to be sure your virus protection software keeps up the pace.
- Avoid suspicious sites. If a site’s asking for permission to install something on your computer out of the blue, you better close it.
- Just ignore the bait luring you to “click to know what happened next.” Don’t open attachments in emails from someone you don’t trust, no matter how tempting a “naked_kim_kardashian.jpg” might be.
- Install an ad-blocking tool that works on every browser to keep the malvertising at bay.
In cyberspace, just like in ‘real’ life, the outcomes depend heavily on the decisions that you make. Only the right decisions result in a positive outcome. You have to watch yourself to make sure nobody else is watching you.
Blink twice if you get me.