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Protect Against Webcam Hacking Using These 7 Simple Steps

Updated on October 06, 2016
amuno profile image

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

A sample USB webcam
A sample USB webcam

Webcam hacking has become a favorite pastime for snoopers who unashamedly peek into private lives of innocent users whom they call slaves! With proliferation of mobile devices, this exploit is slowly spreading to smartphone and tablet front facing cameras! Further still, snoopers have taken to hacking nanny cameras for something akin to terrorizing parents.

A simple Google search of the expression view webcam or visiting the pages below can give you an idea how unhindered view of your private life can feel like.

How Webcam Hacking Works

In order to fight the evil of webcam hack it is important to understand how webcam hack software work and how best to steer off hacker pathways. It is through such software that hackers get into your computers and stream whatever information they desire.

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

Then with the help of remotely managed remote administration Trojan (RAT) software, your computer can be manipulated without you ever suspecting. Examples of components that can be monitored include: storage media, web activities, microphone and of course webcam.

In what is known as camfecting, a Trojan file will come as deceptive software designed to help you solve a problem in your computer. Then it will install client hack tools and shell command capability and amongst many trickeries, will monitor hardware or keystrokes by the victim.

A Trojan comes in many shapes and will manifest as:

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

Your inadvertent installation of Trojan files in your computer, will give direct access to the remote hacker, who upon firing up remote administration tools like Metasploit, will monitor and tweak hardware and software in 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 computer webcam, smartphone or tablet front facing cameras and home wireless installations.

1. Be Wary Of Downloads, Apps and Links

The first line of defense is to be wary 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.

2. Install and Update Security Software

Make sure to install trusted antivirus and malware software in your computer, and endeavor to update these regularly. Likewise, install trusted mobile antivirus apps especially in Android devices and use Virtual Private Networks in your mobiles.

Popular anti malware software may throw up red flags whenever Trojans try to download and install.

To compliment this, allow the antivirus software to remove malware immediately and be careful what software you include 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 definition signatures.

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 The Webcam Light

Usually, the typical webcam light will turn on whenever the cam software is started. Thus, the light should alert you that the webcam is on.

If you have not initiated the webcam software in your computer yet its light comes on, then, some remote hacker 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 remotely!

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

Only in 2013 exploits, successful exploits managed to turn on MacBook laptop webcams without triggering its lights. Beware.

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

4. Cover The Webcam

If you are not going to use the webcam in your laptop you may want to cover it until such a time you will need it. Cover the webcam using a post-it note or sticky tape but remember not to mess up your webcam 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 make video communication consider disabling the webcam completely. For Windows users, this can be done in Device Manager and in the BIOS setup.

Device Manager gives you the option to uninstall drivers and so uninstall webcam drivers. Better still 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 your devices 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 around your house.

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 exploit.

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

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, 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 Apple-sanctioned apps to install and run. This deliberate hack gives opens doors for unknown remote access.

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

In order to secure your Apple devices, do not jailbreak them and always update to the latest firmware. For Android users, install and run trusted anti-malware apps and watch out what apps you download and install!

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

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    • Sandro S profile image

      Sandro Spano 19 months 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

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 19 months 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.

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