There’s no paranoia quite like the fear that someone is watching you. Even worse when the reality sets in that someone really is watching you: Through the webcam on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.
The scenario might sound like the plot of a bad late-night movie of Lifetime Channel original, but it’s actually the latest form of cyber threat to be unleashed on the Internet. By using spyware that infect your system, hackers can turn your webcam on at any time and take pictures or record video of whatever they see, including pictures of you using the bathroom, engaging in romance with a partner, changing clothes, or anything else that would never want the rest of the world to see.
After they collect enough of these videos and images, a hacker will send a packet of them to you in an email, text, or other form of communication, demanding ransom money to keep them from releasing your images and videos to all of your contacts in all of your accounts, which they have also used the spyware to hack.
This form of ransomware is known as sextortion, even if all of the pictures and videos aren’t sexually related. However, they do play on a common fear among most people – shame and the fear of being embarrassed in front of our friends, family, coworkers, and community.
That’s why this form of ransomware is one of the toughest to fight. People can send along a note to their IT guy at work if someone tries to install ransomware on the computer or believe a virus is slowing down their processor. But very few if any would send that same email and mention “they have all these pictures of me naked or in bed”; people can’t handle the scandal of it all, even if they were doing nothing wrong and are simply the victims of a criminal.
How do you prevent this nightmare situation from occurring? By stopping the criminals before they can even get started.
How to Secure Your Webcam
Your webcam should only be controlled by you through your computer, but exposure and infestation of malware can change all that.
- Use outstanding antimalware software. Whatever is taking control of your webcam is getting on your computer somehow. An antimalware solution such as Norton will block it by recognizing when something is trying to enter your system illegally and without permission.
- Learn your webcam controls. They are inside the control panel of your computer just like everything else. Most people never spare a second look at them unless they’re having a conference call. Learn what they do and what permissions you can grant or deny.
- Invest in a black piece of tape. Yep, that’s the cheapest and most secure piece of security you can use. Put a piece of black opaque tape over the lens of your webcam and leave it there until you need to use the camera for something. Even if a hacker cracks the code and gains access, they’ll be looking at a big piece fo black nothingness for all their trouble.