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October 2017

Camera Security

My roommate keeps a piece of masking tape over the lens of the camera on his laptop. I think he’s paranoid; he says he’s being safe. I’d love opinions about which one of us is right.

#10172
Neil Nelson
Elkhart, IN



Answers

Laptops, by virtue of their portability, are far more likely to be infected by malware than other computers. Cafes with "free" wireless are perfect networks for dark-side hackers. Once they get their "kung fu" into the system, they essentially own it. Also, remember that the NSA has the manufacturers bake in the ability to turn on the microphone of a cellular phone, even while it's turned off. The government doesn't deny this. That's why almost all of the batteries are now glued into smartphones - removing the battery would prevent it. We would be naive to assume it's significantly different for webcams. Think of the tape is a low-tech low-priced protection method of last resort. We should all do the same.

Roger Sudol
West Orange

He is. The camera can be disabled under the operating system since it uses a software driver to convert the signals into data. Just have him search for that driver file (visit the help page of the O/S provider) and rename it, move it, or delete it (ignore any O/S attempts to replace the driver). If he sells the laptop, a new O/S install will revive the camera driver.

Raymond Ramirez
Bayamon

I hate to say it, but your roommate is right.

As someone who builds gaming computers for a living, I can tell you that any computer that is connected to the internet, can be subjected to some sort of unauthorized access. That’s why we have things like Anti-Virus, Firewalls and other protective programs.

With that being said, your camera can very well be accessed from the outside. Your roommates tape solution is common and works effectively to keep unwanted eyes from seeing what you’re doing. However, you should know that if someone has access to your camera, they have access to your hard drives as well!

You can make it harder for someone to access your Network by having a WPK Passcode instead of a WEP Passcode on your router, and setting up a secondary computer as a stand-alone firewall.

Hopefully I have answered your camera question.

Robert Nelson
Hurricane, UT

As they say, “Just because you a paranoid, doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you.”

Actually, like your roommate, I also keep tape over my camera when I don’t intend on using it. I’m not actually as worried about someone hacking into it as I am about accidentally turning it on without knowing. It could be really embarrassing to find out later that your cam was on and someone was watching via Skype or something similar without you knowing.

Having someone hack into the cam is certainly possible. But user error is probably more likely. Either way, why not be safe and blind the camera when not needed.

Ray Matthews
Freeport, IL

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