For as little at $40, a criminal can purchase a type of malware known as “Creepware” and single-handedly take over your entire computer without you being the wiser. They can access your hard drive, turn on your webcam and basically get to any sensitive information they want. Your bank account number. Your tax information.  All those embarrassing poems you wrote in college that you saved.

Miss Teen USA learned this lesson the hard way, when a cyber criminal broke into her computer, turned on her webcam and took compromising photos of her. The criminal then emailed her and told her that she must do as he asked or he would release the photos. Cyber-blackmail in action.

Terrifying, right? Thinking about all the embarrassing things you’ve done with your webcam sitting on top of your computer? Wondering if it was really off? Creepware can turn a camera ‘on’ but leaves the little camera light ‘off’, so you would never know if you are being spied on. Some people actually fold a business card over the camera lens when they don’t want to really use it. Is that paranoid or cautious?

Before you panic, which no one recommends, consider this: Creepware, like any disease, thrives where there is a weak immune system to exploit. Creepware isn’t just going to magically infect your computer. While it’s true it leaves no sign of forced entry, it’s also true that if you become infected, you welcomed the criminal in with open arms. You opened the door.Well, how do you open the door, you ask?

You click on things you shouldn’t.

We all get tons of messages on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked In  that may look like they pertain to you. Miss Teen USA’s computer became infected when she received a Facebook message that she thought contained information about a beauty pageant. This is why “Think Before You Click,” is such simple, preventative advice. If you don’t know the sender or if the message looks suspicious, don’t click. Even if you know the sender, it’s entirely possible a scammer has adopted his identity just to fool you. Let your intuition be your guide.

Creepware is scary but, with a little common sense, you can keep yourself from being ‘seen’.

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