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Protect Against Webcam Hacks Using These 7 Simple Steps

Updated on November 14, 2017
amuno profile image

Alfred is a long-time teacher and computer enthusiast who works with and troubleshoots a wide range of computing devices.

Someone could be watching you through your webcam
Someone could be watching you through your webcam

Webcam hacks have become a favorite pastime for snoopers who unashamedly peek into victims' private lives. The exploit is fast spreading to smartphone and tablet front facing cameras! Further still, snoopers have taken to hacking nanny cameras for something akin to terrorizing kids and parents.

A simple Google search of 'view private webcam' or visiting Shodan and Insecam can give you a pretty good idea of what is happening.

How Webcam Hacking Works

In order to fight this, it is important to understand how the hack related software works and how best to steer off hacker pathways. It is through this software that hackers get into your computers to stream whatever information they desire.

For anyone to access your smartphone cam or computer webcam, he or she must be able to install a back-door or rootkit software on your computer using a Trojan horse. Upon execution of the malicious file, your IP address will be relayed back to the criminal.

Then with the help of remote administration Trojan (RAT) application, your computer can be manipulated without you ever suspecting. Your storage media, web activities, microphone and webcam can then be turned into 'slaves'.

In what is known as camfecting, a Trojan execution file will come as a tool designed to help you solve a problem on your computer. Then it will install client hack tools and shell command capabilities and amongst many trickeries will monitor hardware and computer keystrokes.

A Trojan will manifest as:

  • antivirus or other malware software
  • friendly mail or pdf file
  • notification
  • etc

The inadvertent installation of Trojan files in your computer will give direct access to the remote hacker, who upon firing up remote administration tools will monitor and tweak hardware and software on your computer.

Below are some examples of remote administration exploit tools:

  • Blackshades Remote access Trojan
  • Metasploit
  • DarkComet
  • SubSeven
  • Back Orifice
  • Lost Door Remote Administration
  • Skype Webcam Hacker
  • AndroRAT for Android

Does it ever cross your mind that someone could be watching you using the laptop or phone cam?

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7 Tips to Protect Your Webcam From Being Hacked

Whereas you have no control over government security webcam installations, live cams and hobbyist webcams that are streamed online, you should have a degree of control over what is harvested from your house.

1. Be Wary Of Downloads, Apps and Links

Be aware of unsolicited files, apps and links. Hackers will always exploit your curiosity by exposing your eyes to friendly mails, images, video files, apps, downloaders, malware removal tools, unsolicited Skype chats and other social engineering hacks.

In brief:

  • don’t open files whose sources you don’t know
  • don’t install apps you don’t know
  • don’t open mail, images, links, PDF files you don’t know
  • be wary of those downloaders that want to self-install
  • be wary of mobile apps that want to access your smartphone camera

Make sure to read app reviews and monitor what or who you are dealing with online before downloading or opening unfamiliar files.

A spammy mail could introduce malware on your computer
A spammy mail could introduce malware on your computer

2. Install and Update Security Software

Make sure to install trusted security software on your computer, and endeavor to update these regularly. Likewise, install trusted mobile antivirus and Virtual Private Networks apps in your mobiles.

Good anti-malware software will throw up red flags whenever Trojans try to download and install.

To complement this, allow the security software to remove malware immediately and exercise caution when including apps in the Exception list. Adding Trojan files in antivirus exception list will leave your computer open to all kinds of remote attacks.

Further still, get into the habit of running whole computer scans regularly. This way, the security scan will pick up hidden rootkits and backdoor threats that went unnoticed in previous scans, probably because of outdated virus definitions.

Watch out what you include in the Exception list when using security software like AVG
Watch out what you include in the Exception list when using security software like AVG

3. Keep an Eye on Webcam Light

Usually, the webcam light will turn on whenever in use. This alerts you the webcam is on.

If the light turns on without you using the application, then, some remote script could be running in the background. Check to make sure you did not start the software accidentally and that you are not being watched!

However, you should not solely rely on the cam light to sense trouble. Some Webcams don’t light up either because the camera light has malfunctioned or the remote script has disabled it. Again, many smartphone cams do not have lights thus giving the hacker a leeway.

In 2013, successful exploits managed to turn on MacBook laptop webcams without triggering its lights!

Make sure to close the lid or completely turn off the laptop if you are not using it.

4. Cover The Webcam

You may also want to cover the webcam until such a time you will need it. Cover the webcam using a post-it note or sticky tape but remember not to mess it up by using excessive adhesive.

Of course, the recourse changes when it comes to your smartphone. With the selfie craze all around us, you may want to have your front facing camera on at all times. For mobiles, therefore, make use of other preventive measures explained herein.

5. Disable The Webcam

You should also consider disabling the webcam in your computer if you are not going to use it. Apart from the usual video chats via Skype and other tools, webcams are utterly useless when it comes to taking photos.

If you do not rely on your laptop for communication, consider disabling the webcam completely. For Windows users, this can be done in Device Manager or the BIOS setup page.

Right-click the laptop webcam under Imaging devices and select Disable.

Disable the laptop webcam if you are not going to use
Disable the laptop webcam if you are not going to use

6. Use Secure Passwords

All computers and mobile devices in your household should be secured with passwords. In addition, set them to request for passwords whenever they wake up from Sleep or Hibernation. This may help against exploits which are targeted at idle devices.

Also, secure passwords should be the ultimate solution if you have installed security cameras and network devices.

8 character or longer password comprising upper and lower case letters, symbols and numbers should help dissuade would be hackers from exploiting your installation. Long passwords are harder for hackers to guess.

Improve overall home security by changing your passwords every once in a while and making sure they are well encrypted.

You don’t want to be smoked out at the storage level.

7. Don’t Jailbreak or Root your Smartphone

Apple endeavors to improve user security in every version of new IOS firmware. But this security is easily breached when you choose to jailbreak your iPhone.

When you jailbreak, or root an Android device, you basically interfere with security checks and limitations that are written within the firmware.

A jailbroken iPhone allows good and evil third party apps other than those sanctioned by Apple to install and run.

Xsser mRAT, PlaceRaider, AndroRAT are just a few examples of remote access exploits that can run on jailbroken and rooted Android devices while transmitting phone contents and images to remote users.

In order to secure your Apple device, do not jailbreak it and always update to the latest firmware. For Android users, install and run trusted anti-malware apps while watching out for malware apps!

Jailbreaking your iPhone may expose it to exploits
Jailbreaking your iPhone may expose it to exploits

© 2015 Alfred Amuno

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    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 2 years ago from Kampala

      You are right Sandro. Ignorance about webcam activity still is a problem. Just as I was writing this, a friend of mine confessed to have seen his webcam light up for the whole period he had visited a foreign country and he had no clue whatsoever what was happening.

    • Sandro S profile image

      Sandro Spano 2 years ago from Hasselt, Limburg, Belgium

      Great post! There are still so many people who are too casual about online safety hazards and I'm speaking as a son whose parents have already brought in three viruses to date. Maybe I should force them to watch Mr. Robot or something. :P