Having internet access and a computer screen is what allows you to be anonymous. If a cyber criminal is able to hack into your computer’s camera your anonymity is lost. While being afraid of people spying on you via a webcam may make you sound like a conspiracy theorist, it is actually a real threat. So how are people hacking each other’s webcams? What do they get out of it and what do they do with the information they collect? Luckily, there are a few easy rules to follow in order to keep yourself from being recorded without your knowledge.

How Webcams are Hacked

We’ve all seen people hack into camera feeds within seconds in movies and on tv shows within seconds. While it may not be so easy to access foreign cameras, it’s not as difficult as other forms of hacking. Cyber criminals usually use malware called remote access trojans, or RATs, which gives them access to the camera, computer files, and ability to record keystrokes by the user. These can either be created by a criminal, or are already available for purchase online.

The difficult part comes when trying to get RATs onto someone’s computer. Cyber criminals will hide the malware in other applications downloaded from the internet. They can also be attached to emails or embedded in an email link. (If you want to know how to identify red flags in emails we have tons of materials to help you learn more!)

Another way criminals might gain access to your webcam is by by-passing your computer’s firewall. This is why, as you’ll read later, having an anti-malware firewall is important for any device you have connected to the internet.

Why Webcams are Hacked

What probably comes to mind is “sextortion.” This idea of criminals hacking the computers of women and men and catching them while they’re naked is a reality. If you watch the show Black Mirror you may recall an episode, Shut Up and Dance of season 3, where a young boy is blackmailed by cyber criminals over footage they collected from his webcam. The reason this particular episode worked and terrified its audience is because it’s a scenario which could happen today. Video of your personal time along side access to your contacts and passwords creates the perfect extortion plot for any cyber criminal.

However, there are many other things which may be advantageous to those with access to cameras.

Access to the audio feed of a camera may give those listening in even more information that can be used to blackmail, extort, and expose those who have been hacked. Imagine your business competitors can listen in on all your meetings and phone calls? They’d probably end up hearing sensitive, private information at some point. Any computer with internet access and a microphone is in danger of having any conversation within its proximity recorded.

How to Keep Safe

You may not want to look like the paranoid one who has tape over their cameras and microphones (just like Mark Zuckerberg or like the pope below) but it may just save your privacy in the long run. Covering up your computer’s camera is a great first step to protecting yourself. But there are many other cameras and audio recording devices in your life you may not realize.

Televisions, phones, doorbells are starting to see more and more cameras connected. Then, of course, there are security cameras too. To keep all of these devices safe keep them up to date with software and antivirus and be use to use strong passwords. Rather cyber criminals are trying to watch your private moments or listen in, you do not want to even give them the chance!

Meg Krafft

Digital Marketing Assistant at The Security Awareness Company
After starting out creating digital and print marketing for a real estate company, Meg now assists in keeping up the marketing needs for SAC. When not working she's probably watching a good movie or indulging in local art and music.

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