Top tips is a weekly column where we highlight what’s trending in the tech world today and list ways to explore these trends. This week, we’ll give you five tips to prevent hackers from accessing your webcam without your knowledge.

Top tips: Camfecting

Ever stopped to wonder if someone can see you through your webcam even when you’re not actively using it? Wonder no more! Because through the power of camfecting, hackers can remotely access your webcam without your permission and view anything within its range.

Camfecting typically works like this: A hacker installs some sort of Trojan or spyware on your system and takes access of your webcam without your permission. They can then proceed to record videos or take pictures of you without your knowledge, with the intention of extortion, identity theft, or even stealing confidential information like your bank account details.

In 2013, then Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf fell victim to such an attack. The attacker was arrested and sentenced to 18 months in prison for hacking and extortion. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that the attacker had targeted close to 150 users, mostly women. He captured intimate pictures and videos of them without their knowledge to extort money from them.

To avoid such attacks and stay cybersafe, it’s important to maintain a good level of online hygiene. Thankfully, we here at ManageEngine have compiled five steps you can take to ensure you’re covered, both metaphorically and literally.

1. Cover your camera

Something as simple as putting a sticker on your camera when you’re not using it is all it takes to prevent a PR disaster for yourself. Even the Zuck, someone who’s pretty familiar with invasion of privacy, was spotted with tape over his webcam. Nowadays, you can even buy webcam cover slides online for as little as a buck. Slide it open to use the camera and slide it shut to close. It’s okay if your coworker thinks you’re being paranoid—sometimes it really is better to be safe than sorry.

2. Turn off your device

To keep up with the rat race, we most often do not power off our computers when we’re done using them. Although the previous point can help fix the risks associated with leaving your camera uncovered, it is also a good practice to turn off your laptop or PC when you’re done with it. Not only will you be saving yourself the trouble of having to deal with bad actors, you’ll also be doing yourself and the planet a solid by saving electricity.

3. Keep your OS updated

An outdated or unpatched OS is more likely to render your device a primary target for bad actors, as they can capitalize on the vulnerabilities that haven’t been fixed through the updates. It’s always a great idea to turn on automatic updates for your OS and make sure that the updates and patches are being applied in a timely manner.

4. Disable webcam access where not necessary

There are probably just a handful of applications on your device that require access to your camera for daily use. Look around in your device’s settings and disable camera access to all the other apps that you don’t use regularly or those that don’t require it. The fewer the apps that can access your camera, the lower your chances for an attack.

5. Use trusted antimalware

Most camfecting cases involve infecting your device with some kind of malware as the primary method of intrusion. Therefore, it’s wise to have trusted antimalware software that can detect and prevent such attacks. You should be able to perform timely scans or even automate them to ensure that your device is always free of infection.

Picture-perfect privacy

By design, the little indicator light next to your camera turns on whenever it is in use. But did you know hackers can override this when they want to use your webcam, so you won’t even know when it is being accessed?

Despite all our technological advancements, hackers are always finding inventive ways to hold you and your data hostage. With these five simple steps, you can ensure that you keep your identity and data safe and away from prying eyes. You’ll never know how something so trivial can save you a world of heartache.

David Simon
Marketing Analyst