Should you cover your webcam?

Should you cover your webcam?

October 12, 2019 100 By Kailee Schamberger


(ominous music) – You’ve probably seen
people cover their webcams, but should you cover your webcam? Former FBI director, James Comey, thinks you should. – [Interviewer] Do you
still have a piece of tape over your cameras at home?
– Heck yeah, heck yeah. – Edward Snowden, and
even Mark Zuckerberg, appear to cover theirs.
It could protect you from attacks like the one Miss Teen USA experienced in 2013, in which a man secretly spied on her, and recorded her, and then blackmailed her. But
you’re not a head of state, and you’re also not a celebrity. So do you really need
to worry about someone spying on you through
your laptop’s camera? Well, yeah. (steady electronic music) In 2013, a hacker told the BBC that access to a woman’s webcam cost about a dollar,
and that he had access to 500 computers. That’s crazy! So, to find out how
common these attacks are, and whether we should be worried, I talked to Tod Beardsley,
the research director at cybersecurity and penetration
testing company, Rapid7. – There are occasionally bugs in web-based technologies
that allow attackers to open your webcam
and record video on it. They’re pretty far and few in between. – [Ashley] He explained to
me that these vulnerabilities often show up in Flash and Java, and at this point, there
might even been one in html5. What really sucks is that you won’t know if a website is affected, also, hackers can turn off your webcam’s light so you won’t actually know whether you’ve been compromised. That’s not great! – Anything that wants you to click in a very specific place in your browser, that would be very suspect.
You see it a lot more now with location services, like, “click here to allow location service”, that’s typically the
control on webcams as well. There’s not a lot you can
do about it other than (clicks tongue to mimic sticky tape) – Okay, so, at least tape will stop someone from spying on you visually, that’s a relief. But how effective is covering our webcams,
and should we do it? – Having it covered is a super cheap, super easy thing to do, that
also doesn’t get you a lot, but at least it makes
you feel better, right? And it is a signal to other people that you think about security. – Okay, so Tod says it can’t hurt, but covering your laptop camera doesn’t actually address
the much bigger risk of your cellphone camera and microphone. Microphone hacking is
probably just as creepy and incriminating as a video. – I can record conversations in the room, that piece of tape is not gonna stop me. – [Ashley] We actually tested this. (cellphone ringing) – [Woman On Phone] Hey. – Hey, okay, so can you try to talk to me with your phone away from your face? – [Woman On Phone] Sure. (microphone static) – [Woman On Phone] This is
about how loudly I would talk if I was having a conversation with someone in a room. – Okay, so I can hear you pretty perfectly meaning, if a hacker had
hacked into your microphone, even if you had tape
over it, here she would still be able to hear what you’re saying. I hate to break it to you all, but the reality is that
cameras and microphones are everywhere now; we
have smart home speakers, cellphones, laptops, smart refrigerators, and even voice-enabled TV remotes listening to us at all times. Unless you’re going to tape over, or physically disable every one of those cameras or microphones, you’re still going to be at risk. But, if nothing else, we can at least prevent webcam attacks with tape. – There is some superstitious
comfort you get, because you can see the
camera sticker all the time, you’re looking at it and
think, “I’m doing it right”. It’s a little bit self-congratulatory to put the tape on the camera, but it does ultimately also mean that you’re looking at security
control all the time, so you might be thinking more about how long should my password be? Should I tell those people my password? Shall I click on this link in the cPanel? I think that is probably valuable. – So go ahead, put tape over your camera. It might not stop hackers from listening through your microphone, but it’ll at least make us feel a little bit better, and prevent them from watching us sleep at night. (elevator dings)