Pretty much every piece of smart technology we have, whether it’s a PC, laptop, smartphone or TV comes enabled with webcams. These devices are great for video chats or conference calls but as with any piece of modern technology, they are also vulnerable to being hacked.
The idea that someone may be spying on you through your webcam is scary but unfortunately the threat is very real. In 2014, a Russian-based website compromised 600 UK webcams and more than 10,000 others from around the world. The site live-streamed voyeuristic images of people in their homes and the footage included children watching TV and people asleep in their beds.
There are many reasons why hackers want to hack your webcam but as with most online crimes it all comes down to money. Before the Russian-based website was shut down for illegal activity, it made a profit by displaying advertisements along with the voyeuristic footage.
How easy is it to hack webcams?
Surprisingly easier than you think! Hackers are adept at finding ways to snoop on your activity or steal your data. Unfortunately, we make it all too easy for them by using weak security practices and not taking the proper precautions to secure our devices.
If hackers can find any vulnerabilities within these devices, they can then exploit them to gain access. One of the most common ways they will do this is by installing a Remote Administration Tool (RAT). A RAT is a type of malware that lets a hacker take control of your computer.
If you click on a malicious link within an email or download a software programme from an untrustworthy source, you could inadvertently be installing a RAT. Once installed, the hackers can take control of your entire device and anything connected to your network, including your webcam.
However, malware is not the only way your webcam could be accessed remotely. Some websites and apps will ask for different permissions which can include accessing your webcam. It’s important to remember that not all websites and apps are trustworthy, and you could be putting your privacy and data at great risk by agreeing to these permissions without doing your research.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent your webcam from being hacked.
1. Cover your webcam
One of the simplest ways to prevent hackers from spying on you is to cover your webcam. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been known to use a simple strip of tape to cover his, but there are many different webcam covers available that can be used to protect your privacy. If your webcam device is external, you should consider disconnecting it when not in use.
2. Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments from unknown sources
Phishing continues to prove one of the most effective ways for hackers to trick you into installing malware. Phishing emails will appear to come from a reputable source and the ultimate aim is to get you to click on a malicious link or download an attachment. Attackers are also utilising social media to trick users into clicking on shortened links that mask their true destination. If you click on these links, you could directly infect your device with malware, allowing hackers to take control of your webcam without you even knowing.
3. Scan your device for malware
To make sure that your devices remain secure, you should run regular virus scans. This will help detect any threats and prevent unauthorised users from gaining access to your webcam. Some of the most up to date Anti-Virus solutions will have dedicated webcam protection that provides additional security.
4. Keep your firmware up to date
Just like any other hardware device, webcams are controlled by firmware. As with software, it can contain vulnerabilities that hackers are able to exploit. It’s important not to ignore any updates as hackers can gain access to your webcam through vulnerabilities in older and outdated firmware. If you are not receiving regular updates, you should visit the website of your webcam manufacturer to view and download the latest updates.
5. Use a Firewall
Another great way to protect your webcam is by using a firewall. This is a piece of software that will provide an extra layer of defence by monitoring incoming and outgoing traffic. It will prevent unauthorised access to your device and filter out any traffic that needs blocked. Most firewalls will need to be manually turned on, so you should go into your device settings and make sure it is enabled.
6. Secure your Wi-Fi
Hackers may try and gain access to your webcam by targeting your home wireless router. One of the first things you should do to secure your Wi-Fi is change the default username and password to something more secure. A strong password should be between 10-20 characters long, contain a mix of upper and lowercase letters, and include numbers or symbols. Another way to safeguard your network data is to turn on wireless network encryption. The most secure type of encryption to use is WPA2. To check if your router uses WPA2 encryption, look at your network settings and check the wireless properties. This will enable you to select the best encryption method when you join a wireless network.
7. Check to see if the webcam indicator light turns on by itself
Most laptops or webcams will have a notification light to indicate when it’s in use. If you notice that your webcam indicator light has switched on by itself, this could be a sign that your webcam is being accessed remotely. Unfortunately, this method cannot solely be relied upon as some hackers can code their malware to disable the light. You should also pay close attention to any strange changes on your device such as new programs opening up or files getting moved about.
MetaPhish has been specifically designed to protect businesses from phishing and ransomware attacks and provides the first line of defence in combating cyber-crime. Get in touch for further information on how we can help your business.