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How to Secure Your Webcam

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How to Secure Your Webcam
Photo: PM Images / Getty

From smartphones and tablets to notebook PCs, webcams seem to be standard equipment these days. Just about every device we use has a camera on it. Did you ever stop to think that while you're staring at your screen, someone on the Internet might be staring back at you?

The national news is awash in stories about hackers tricking users into installing webcam spyware.

How can you be sure that no one is watching you without your permission?

Many webcams on notebook computers have indicator lights on them that let you know when your camera is actively capturing video. It may be possible (on some cameras) to disable the activity light through software hacks or modifying configuration settings. So, just because you don't see an activity light on doesn't mean that your webcam isn't still capturing video.

What can you do to secure your webcam?

The Simple Solution: Cover It Up

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best ones. If you want to be absolutely sure that no one is watching you through your webcam, get some electrical tape and cover it. If you don't want any tape residue on your camera then you can use a longer strip of tape and fold it back on itself. Not even the best hacker in the world can defeat electrical tape.

If you want to get a little more sophisticated, you can roll up a coin in the electrical tape so that the weight of the coin helps the tape stay positioned over the camera. When you want to use the camera, just lift the coin up and fold it back over the top of your computer screen.

There are many other creative solutions that our readers have come up with and posted to our blog site. Maybe someone out there will start a Kickstarter project and come up with a solution that can be sold to the masses.

Close Your Notebook PC When You're Not Using it?

If you don't want to mess with covering up your camera , just make a habit of closing your notebook computer when you're not using it or when you want to make sure that you're not on camera.

Scan Your Computer for Webcam-related Malware

A traditional virus scanner may not always catch webcam-related spyware or malware. In addition to your primary antivirus software, you may want to install anti-spyware.

I also recommend augmenting your primary anti-malware solution with a Second Opinion Malware Scanner such as Malwarebytes or Hitman Pro. A Second Opinion Scanner acts as a second layer of defense and will hopefully catch any malware that may have evaded your front line scanner.

Avoid Opening E-mail Attachments From Unknown Sources

If you get an email from someone you don't know and it contains an attachment file, think twice before you open it as it may contain a Trojan horse malware file that could install webcam-related malware onto your computer.

If your friend e-mails you something with an unsolicited attachment, text them or call them to see if they really sent it on purpose or if someone sent it from a hacked account.

Avoid Clicking Shortened Links on Social Media Sites

One of the ways webcam-related malware is spread is through links on social media sites. Malware developers often use link shortening services such as TinyURL and Bitly to try and mask the true destination link which is likely a malware distribution site. Check out our article on The Dangers of Short Links for information on how to see the destination of a short link without clicking on it.

If a link's content sounds too good to be true, or sounds like it's sole purpose is to get you to click it due to it's appealing subject matter, it is best to steer clear and not click on it as it may be a doorway to a malware infection.

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