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Should you cover your webcam? Here are 5 easy ways on how to avoid ‘spying’

Did you know that leaving your laptop or mobile device unsecured can be the best window for any smart hacker to make a move on you? This compromises all sorts of privacy that you can think of from your browsing history, bank details, whereabouts, and even what is happening inside your house in real-time. Without a doubt, there’s always a chance for unexpected & real-time security breach both online and at your home.

Everyone is left unalarmed about what could go wrong as we are not aware of how to protect ourselves from this underlying danger. This is not a simple paranoia that shouldn’t be left unchecked as the FBI and other online security bureaus around the world have testified to the many facts surrounding its mystery.

Shrouded in fear knowing these truths, being prepared on how to counteract potential malicious attacks against any user is their topmost priority. This article shall expound how and when you can be exposed to these cybersecurity issues as well as the top safety precautions for your everyday online use.

How and when can someone spy on my laptop camera? And why?

It was documented last 2014 that the FBI was able to arrest hundreds of hackers who were located in 12 different countries. It was one of the largest recorded cybersecurity operations made by the bureau up to this date. They have found an online software, coined as ‘Blackshades’ by none other than the culprit themselves, which is capable to access files such as photos, videos, documents, and all other footprints from the last time you have logged in on your laptop or PC.

This also allowed the perpetrator to pick up all the online passwords from all accounts you were able to log in from the last 24 hours. It can also access the keyboard strokes you made on that exact time as well as mouse movements. Surprisingly, it can activate the webcam of the laptop device without the consent of the user. These can all happen without the user knowing it.

Not only has this software tool been documented on these reports but also through the IP address from a given location where your laptop device is connected. Just so you know that your laptop’s webcam needs to be connected on the internet for its work during a video call or a conference call from a third-party communication provider like Skype or Zoom. Thus, connecting to the internet itself shows the IP address that’s being used by your device.

Even the FBI themselves or any security bureau from a given country uses a certain hacking method for surveillance of suspects. Once the location of a suspect has been spotted from any GPS-based device, they can generate a connection into its device camera to monitor their whereabouts and online activities. They do this for cases like illegal money transfers via online banking and live communication that is taking place among the suspects.

So, if your gadget is not secured with a very robust password, your camera can be infiltrated by any hacker located anywhere in the world. You are giving them easier ways on how they can meddle with your lives as well as to put your security at risk. 

Malwares like Trojans can be sent secretly into the files or any media uploads that you download on your device. Sinister links can also give instant access to anyone as soon as you click it. These can even give them remote access to your devices even if it is turned off.

Shockingly, various universities and education institutions have spied on some students/users as to what their students are doing at the moment they are connected to the school public WiFi. School administrators stated that they reprimand students who use their internet service for non-academic reasons. Nonetheless, it may be a wholesome reason as to why they do this but you might not know what they can do on what they will eventually learn from your activities.

What will happen to my laptop? What will happen to me?

Indeed, hackers have their way to instill threat on any user once they are successful in accessing your laptop’s camera. Victims are surprised by sudden uploads of videos and images from a time that they are in front of their laptop on some websites for voyeurism reasons. Some people have stated that they even saw themselves or their family members doing household chores, running around the house, cooking, dancing, etc.

Worst cases were sexual activities that have been recorded through spying on the camera once it is left open and connected on the internet. This means that everyone can be a target of spying so they can gain backdoor access and even control your device activity. 

Some reports have stated that some laptop brands are vulnerable to these as the design itself lacks security. Furthermore, these companies are said to be doing these intentionally for a nationwide campaign for cybersecurity breach especially for those who have poor knowledge regarding the installation of the best anti-malware softwares.

Ultimately, a so-called computer worm can also be left inside your computer once your device security has been compromised. This has been confirmed by an F-Secure Chief Officer and researcher who is located at Helsinki, Finland. The team is known to have been a success in battling the Sobig Worm which spread way back August 2003 that attacked millions of computers with Microsoft Windows operating system installed. This means that potential security breaches are at hand as soon as you are connected to the internet.

Setting up a temporary firewall on your operating system to block all traffic of audio and videos should be made as soon as your sense that there is a cyber-security breach on your laptop or home network. This will prevent them to make use of the laptop webcam to spy on you. Immediately uninstall external drivers such as webcams then run a total scan from reputable security software. Then, you can reinstall all of it after you have confirmed that your device is clean.

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What should I do to avoid hackers spying through my webcam?

A rock solid anti-virus or anti-malware should do its job in protecting your laptop against all culprits. The only problem that is left is choosing which one works the best to spot and block all malwares attacking your machine. This means that businesses should invest more in these security protocols on all of the computers that are being used by their employees. Household residences are advised to subscribe to family plans so every computer or device in the house can be protected.

#1. Choose the Best Multi-Layered Anti-Malware Software

With regards to choosing the best subscription plan whether it will be for personal, household, or business use, protecting your system with a multi-layered security software should be one of your top concerns. These should include a phishing & spam detecting system, a whitelist-based layered firewall, and anti-malware software from top-rated providers. Plus, you need to ensure that they have very tight control on its admin accounts to avoid segmented access on many computers.

#2. Cover the camera

Covering your web camera when not in use is a good practice for all users. This practice is even recommended by both Edward Snowden and Mark Zuckerberg across all devices they own. Blocking the plain view of the perpetrators through the lenses of your camera compliments the security software that you will install in your device. It can be a sticky note or a plaster tape attached to the laptop camera. This is a money-saving way to keep your devices secured from all security breaches that can be made through your laptop camera.

#3. Update your software 

Another hack that we can recommend is to always update the software of your smartphone, laptop, and PC as well as to install the necessary patches. This is to make sure that the hackers won’t be able to take advantage of the outdated version of your software  installed in your device to their leverage. Once they find a crack of a specific version of a software in your device, they can cling into it and your cybersecurity will be put into a high risk.

#4. Unplug external devices

If you are using an external webcam, you should always unplug it when you are not using it. Reports have shown that most of these devices that you buy separately from the gadgets themselves are so much susceptible to security breaches. Hackers have found their way to sell webcams that can give them instant access on your device while you are using it. Make sure that you buy your webcams from a trusted supplier or a known store to make sure its authenticity.

#5. Make sure you’re using hardware and software from reputable brands

Lastly, try to search your device’s brand and manufacturer if there are reviews against its security. Some of their previous customers leave satisfaction ratings and comment as to how they find the device so far from the time they bought it. You can eventually find an active complaint regarding the vulnerability of the device, webcam, or any computer hardware that you are connecting on your laptop device.

That’s it for now. If you have any tips to add, share them with us in the comments section below. For questions, let us know and we’ll help you out.

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