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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

Should I Cover the Camera on My Laptop?

Computer and Tech Tips Blog

I'm sure you've seen it many times. You're sitting with a co-worker or a family member and notice they have a piece of tape or a sticky note covering their laptop camera. You might not even have to look that far, as you have probably covered your own laptop camera for fear that cybercriminals may be able to peer through your laptop and gather secrets about you. Is this practice necessary? Cybercrime has picked up over the last year and you should take all precautions. Check out this article to find out if you should get into the habit of covering up your camera.

Way back in 2016, former FBI director James Comey suggested covering up your computer's webcam is a good step to keep you and your information safe. There are many things a criminal can do if they got access to your webcam. They could disable the activity light so you aren't aware you're being filmed. They could take photos or videos while you're using the computer and use the information gathered to blackmail you. While many people interpreted what Director Comey said as cybercriminals specifically target webcams, the fact of the matter is the chances of this occurring are minor. The bigger issue is those wireless webcams you have floating around your home or business. Too often, people are focused on their laptop webcams that they forget the security needed to keep webcams safe. Yes, cybercrime attacks, have increased over the years, but criminals are focusing their attacks on phishing, SMShing, and vishing scams that just require a little trickery and very limited computer hacking skills. You should also be more concerned about having strong passwords for your online accounts and being able to spot various internet scams than covering your webcam.

If you're wondering about your smartphone and tablet, it can potentially get compromised if you download malicious software. iOS devices that are running iOS14 and iPadOS 14 have features that alert you if a program tries to access your camera. Android users don't have access to this feature, unfortunately, so you need to be careful what you download. You need to be cautious with smart home devices such as Nest Hub Max, Amazon Echo Show, or smart TVs. Unlike your computer which just takes a criminal tricking you to click on a link that will take control of your camera, but if a criminal performs some credential stuffing with information of yours they discovered on the dark web, they can easily gain access to your smartphone camera. what? It’s as easy as a few clicks to enable the camera on those devices, too.

Before you ignore all of this and buy a cover for your laptop webcam, installing one could potentially cause problems. Newer webcams have sensors for ambient light or infrared cameras used for facial recognition. You might have to accept the possibility that it may not be practical to use a camera cover on laptop, smartphone, or tablet.

As I've said in past blogs, 99% of cybercrime requires user interaction which means the chances of someone actually breaking into your computers, smartphone, and tablets is very, very slim. However, the chances increase quite a bit if click on a malicious link and allow someone to access your device. If you're looking to increase your webcam and overall security of your devices, check out these tips that will keep you safe.

  1. Avoid suspicious links or attachments. Cybercriminals love to use phishing emails to get access to your devices, including your webcam. Don't open emails and links or download attachments if you aren't sure who they are coming from.

  2. Protect your Skype and Zoom accounts. Skype and Zoom require user names and passwords, information that could be floating around on the dark web. Change these on a regular basis. Also, disable both of these programs so they don't automatically startup with your computer.

  3. Update your operating systems and software. Security patches show up to be downloaded on your devices for a reason. Cybercriminals are always looking to exploit vulnerabilities found in the operating system or popular software. When you update your devices, you keep them safe.

  4. Change the password on your wireless webcam. Many of your set up your wireless webcams with the same default password that was programmed into the device. Change the password if possible as well as using stronger passwords with the software that controls your wireless webcams.

  5. Protect yourself from credential stuffing. Credential stuffing is when criminals get access to users names and passwords discovered on the dark web. Once they have these items, they stuff your accounts for your devices until they find a combination that works, giving them access to your devices.

It's always important to keep your personal life out of the hands of cybercriminals. Do your research to make sure you're doing what's right for you and your devices. It's easy to just go with what everyone else is doing, but that may not work for your gadgets.

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