Mobile Device Cameras - Safe to Trust?

Have you ever wondered why your office neighbor has their computer camera covered up? Today we will break down device cameras and how hackers may be targeting this tool.

In almost every laptop computer you buy now, it comes in with a built in webcam. How handy this can be! You now don’t have to invest the extra money on an external camera to do things like Skype with your friends and family. This also can be helpful in the business world since meetings are increasingly becoming more remote in conjunction with the response to the coronavirus pandemic. But how do you know this little built in tool is safe, and that you are the only one who can give it permissions?

Can Hackers Target Webcams?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is yes. The security of your webcam can be compromised several ways. 

Most of the time it's due to webcam malware being installed onto your devices. This could be something that was installed even before you received your computer, especially if you are buying from third-party providers. 

It could be due to a phishing attack. Hackers will get you to install the malware for them by including it in unsecured zip files, links, and more. By opening these files the downloads can start instantly and without your knowledge, so you don’t know that you should be taking measures to reverse this process. 

Hackers can even do this process in a physical attack using your mobile devices. They break into your mobile devices by using brute force, a common method that is just trying commonly used passwords until it unlocks. Once unlocked, hackers can download spying applications that can not only view your camera - even when your phone is off - but also view your messages, calls, and more.

Now you might be thinking : “I know when my camera is on. The light indicator next to it means it's in use, and when that's not on I’m 100% sure no one or no application is using it.” I hate to break it to you, but some camera malware makes sure to disable this light, so they are able to access your camera without your knowledge. 

So now that they have access to your cameras, what are they doing with them? Although intentions aren’t clear for every hacker, most of the time it’s to use the information they’ve collected against you. Whether it’s to blackmail you while using the collected footage, or if you’re streamed live to websites on the internet, the intentions of hackers are definitely not in the right place.

Protecting your Privacy

All of this can seem overwhelming and scary, but trust me, there are many preventative measures that are easy to take to make sure hackers can’t use this attack on you. We are going to discuss five methods that will work as preventative measures for webcam attacks.

1. Cover your cameras when they are not in use.

First things first, cover your webcams. This step is one of the easiest ways to make sure that even if your devices become compromised, hackers can’t get you caught off guard. This can be extremely simple, try using tape, paper, or a designated camera cover that can slide open and shut.

2. Download software as a preventative measure.

Make sure that you have anti-virus software, anti-malware applications, and phishing detectors set up as a preventive measure when it comes to hackers. This also can expand to keeping your software on all devices in the most up to date form, as to prevent hackers from attacking weak points and bugs in the old software. 

3. Do not open any suspicious files sent to you.

Be sure to not open any files that seem suspicious. This is most likely a phishing attack, and something that could grant these hackers access to your webcams. Don’t click on shortened links that don’t tell you where the site is actually taking you to. 

4. Disable cameras when they are not in use.

A manual way of protecting your camera is to disable it when you are not using it. This can be done by going to your settings and managing your devices or cameras.

5. Only use webcams over a secure internet connection.

Only use webcams over a secure internet connection. This means that if you are on public Wi-Fi and you are not using a VPN, you shouldn’t be doing anything that includes sensitive information, especially important meetings where you are using a webcam. 

Fixing a Mistake Already Made

Sometimes these hacks happen, and maybe you have already been compromised. It’s definitely easier to prevent this sort of thing than fix it, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. 

You need to block access from the hacker continuing to monitor you. This means covering up your camera using a method we mentioned earlier, and then blocking their access to your video and audio using  firewall rules. 

After this you need to run scans of your computer using the anti-virus and anti-malware software we mentioned earlier. Once this process is complete you can reset back your camera and firewalls. 

Sometimes these steps can get a little confusing, especially if you don’t know much about computers and the devices you use. Lucky for you, Wildcard specializes in helping individuals and companies fix these sorts of problems.

Don’t let hackers take advantage of you at one of your most vulnerable states. Securing the cameras on your devices will keep your privacy, data, and reputation safe.