CamPatch, who are a company that specialize in making webcam covers, have done a study into the awareness of laptop users as to the dangers of webcam hacking.
The study was carried out on 250 laptop users in the US and gave an insight as to how unaware some people are. It should be pointed out that although this was only done using a very small user group and that they were only from the US, that if it had have been widened to more countries and a much larger study group, that the results may have been even worse. The study found that 38% of men were unaware webcams could be hacked and 62% of women also didn’t realise.
Most of you may (or may not) realise that the ability to access and sometimes, control someone’s network camera (not the webcam on your computer) remotely is as simple as entering a basic search query into Google, as most people don’t bother to protect the camera, or make it available for people to use. Surveillance camera watching was very popular as far back as 2006 (from my own memory) as people posted links on sites where people could easily access the live video feeds, or indeed control the cameras, which is still easily possible today. There are hundreds of sites out there that will show you how to hack/ access webcams.
So, what has changed, now that pretty well all of us use a webcam, or at least have one? Not a lot, which is kind of worrying.
Now, before people start panicking, it should be noted that you are very unlikely to be broadcasting yourself unknowingly via your cam, but people should be aware that it does happen, and there are Trojans out there that will grant access to your cam.
Way back in 2005, Spanish police arrested a 37 years old hacker, only known as J.A.S, who had written a program that was capable of secretly recording internet users through their webcams. The trojan was spread via Kazaa hidden inside image and music files, and is thought to have infected up to 100,000 users. When he was finally caught, they also found images and video that he had obtained via people’s webcams.
In 2010, a Philadelphia school district settled a lawsuit for $610,000 after students learned the district could spy on them by remotely activating web cameras in school-issued laptops. That case really hit the news and started to wake people up, which can only be a good thing.
Those were just two examples, but there are a lot more and it will, inevitably get worse as more and more people use cams for communication.
CamPatch also gave the following advice for concerned people:
- Cover up the Lens (Post-it note, tape etc)
- Turn off your device when you’re not using it
- Have up-to-date firewalls and security programs
- Help increase awareness (let your friends know)
You can read the full PDF report by CamPatch just below the Infographic, which goes into further detail.