Yes, it’s a highly disturbing thought, which is all the more reason why it shouldn’t ignored.

We’re constantly reminded to be wary about the kind of photos and videos we share on virtual spaces, lest they are misused. But one disturbing fact we need to realize is that, no matter how cautiously we live our virtual lives, there is still an ever-present risk of our security being compromised.

Cassidy Marie Wolf, who was crowned Miss Teen USA in 2013, faced such a situation where a stalker hacked into the webcam in her bedroom, secretly recorded her and then proceeded to blackmail her. Such reports of webcam malwares which allow videos to be recorded without the knowledge of the user is making cyberstalking a scary reality.

Could someone be spying on you without your knowledge?

But I’m not a celebrity, will it affect me?

Sadly, yes.

Hackers attack at random, sending out malware in large numbers and waiting for someone to take the bait which usually comes in the form of weblinks. While we aren’t gullible enough to believe flashing messages claiming that we are the 999,999,999th visitor to a particular website, some links come by less obvious means.

In 2011, a Southern California man named Luis Mijangos (32) was sentenced to 6 years in prison for using webcam malware to spy on more than 100 women and girls. He also had access to their microphones to listen in on conversations. Mijangos spread the bait by sending a link of popular-sounding song titles in peer-to-peer networks that were actually malware.

Even if you don’t think your life is interesting enough to be snooped in on, the chances of it happening are equally high.

Read More – The Dummies Guide To Password Security

Can hackers access my phone camera as well?

It is possible, but not as common or easy as hacking a PC webcam.

A researcher claimed to have written an Android app which can take photos and videos using a smartphone camera even when the screen is turned off. Apps ask for permission to use your camera and microphone soon after installation so you’re pretty much on the safe side if you only download authentic apps.

Virtual space is not your personal space

What’s the solution?

A piece of tape over your webcam. Ridiculously simple, yet effective.

The Former Director of the FBI, James Comey, defended the use of tape to cover webcams. He explained how government offices use webcams which have lids that close down on them to avoid unauthorized access. Since personal laptops do not have such a feature, covering it up is the best bet.

Many websites recommend black electrical tape, but even a post-it or any opaque material will work fine. Just launch your camera after you place the tape over it to ensure it obstructs the view and you’re good to go. If you’re worried about being overheard through microphone malware, cut off the plug from a broken pair of earphones and stick it in the microphone jack to disable the external microphone.

This picture posted by Mark Zuckerberg last year (unknowingly) raised awareness about this DIY security hack.

Mark Zuckerberg thinks tape on the webcam is a safe bet

If you look closely, you’ll notice that he has taped over his laptop’s webcam and microphone. If the founder of Facebook thinks it’s a good idea, it’s a smart move to follow suit.

If you’re concerned about your security (which you should be), put that tape over your webcam. Your friends might think you’re being paranoid but better safe than sorry.

Image Credits – Google Images

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