Webcam Security

March 9, 2010

Can someone spy on you using your own laptop’s webcam?

You’ve probably seen it on your favorite law enforcement TV show or movie and you may have heard about it in the news. Some bad guy spying on someone using the webcam and microphone on the victim’s laptop. You may be wondering if this is possible. The answer is that it is technologically possible, but not likely.

There are only two ways someone could do this. If you happen to be transmitting video and audio from your laptop over the internet, then it’s possible that someone could intercept it depending on what software you are using. The key word there is possible. But you should know that it’s extremely unlikely.

The other way someone could do this would be if they installed some software on your computer and set it up so that it allowed them to activate your webcam and microphone and view remotely. This could be achieved in one of two ways. Either they would have to have physical access to your computer to install and set up the software, or they would have to somehow infect your computer remotely by sending you an email, instant message, or something like that. Both of these cases are very unlikely.

If your child uses a school issued laptop, or you use a laptop issued to your by your employer, then this issue becomes much more complicated. It’s not your laptop. They own the laptop so they can configure it however they want. However, they don’t have the right to spy on you when  you are on your own time. Let’s not go there.

If you are worried about it, here are some things  you can do:

  1. Make sure you have good, up-to-date, unexpired security software (we recommend Vipre or AVG). Everyone should do this on every computer.

  2. If your laptop has a web cam and microphone and you never use them, disable them. Due to the wide range in web cam’s and microphones, we can’t include instructions for doing this here. In this case, we would recommend you give us a call so that we can do this for you.

  3. Some laptops have a light next to the webcam that comes on when the webcam is activated. This is a good feature and allows you to know when the webcam is active. If you notice it is on and you aren’t using it, we recommend giving us a call so we can find out what’s doing it and stop it.

  4. When you aren’t using the computer, close the lid half way (not all the way) so that the webcam is pointing down. That way, if it is on, it’s just getting a picture of your keyboard. If you close the lid all the way, the laptop will either shut down or go to sleep. it’s best to leave computers on and not shut them down when not using them. There are several reasons for this which I won’t go into right now due to space limitations.

To summarize, even though this is sensationalized in TV shows, movies, and in the news, you really don’t need to be worried about it.

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