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Should you tape over your webcam?
So, who else puts tape over their laptop’s webcam?
If you're one of those people who gets made fun of for putting a piece of tape over your webcam, don't worry—you're not crazy. Unfortunately, your paranoia is justified, since it is, in fact, possible for the internet's n'er-do-wells to secretly seize power of your computer's forward-facing camera.
Webcam spying came to headline news earlier this year when news broke of a "sextortion" situation in which Miss Teen USA was surreptitiously photographed au naturale by a remotely-hacked webcam. Ostensibly, the hacker infected the pageant winner's computer with spyware, using remote access tools to secretly enable the webcam.
The hacker and the beauty queen both attended the same high school, which theoretically provided him with physical access to her computer. But more troublingly, he had also planted the spyware on the systems of strangers across the country, proving that proximity isn't required to infiltrate someone's system.
But while hacking using trojan horse viruses is the most malicious way to infiltrate a system, shifty websites sometimes use basic techniques that take advantage of human behavior patterns. Clickjacking is one of the simplest ways hackers can seize power over a webcam.
When a user sees a button that appears to close an ad, it can be assumed that they'll click on it. Knowing this,clickjackers create an invisible button over that area, connected to a script that activates the camera. You know how your browser asks if it can have permission to use your webcam and audio? Well, imagine that dialog screen is invisible and the "yes" button is placed directly over the spot you'd click. Another simple script can turn disable the webcam light so you have no clue that the thing is even turned on.
It's not just the predators and extortionists who take advantage of these loopholes.But it's not just predators and extortionists who take advantage of these loopholes. While the government's occasional use of webcams for spying purposes isn't a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention to the news, more benign public institutions have also dabbled in the practice.
FBI Director Explains Why He Puts Tape Over His Webcam
At a talk about technology and security on April 6, FBI Director James Comey shared that he puts a piece of tape over his webcam.
“I saw something in the news, so I copied it. I put a piece of tape—I have obviously a laptop, personal laptop—I put a piece of tape over the camera. Because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their camera,” Comey said.
The remark was made during an event about privacy, security, and public safety at Kenyon College, Ohio.
The FBI director has said he is “very concerned” about companies like Apple and Google creating privacy features that might allow people to evade law enforcement. The FBI took credit for hacking into the device of the San Bernardino shooter after Apple refused to comply—citing privacy violations.
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