If you have ever been to an IT event or security conference you have undoubtedly seen many laptops with tape covering over their built-in cameras.
The practice is becoming so common within some groups of people that you’ll occasionally even see the taped webcams in coffee shops and the workplace too. I put a piece of tape — I have obviously a laptop, personal laptop — I put a piece of tape over the camera.
Or, just slap some tape or a sticker over the webcam, it’s decidedly low tech but perhaps equally as effective.
For Mac users who are genuinely concerned about this, another approach is through software, and you can always choose to disable the Mac camera completely by way of altering specific system components to prevent the built-in i Sight camera from working completely – this is really only recommended for the most advanced users out there since it involves modifying system files, and with OS X 10.11 and later, disabling SIP in that process.
I’ve even seen some extra dedicated security workers actually physically open their laptops to disconnect the built-in camera, a bit extreme but certainly gets the job done.
Understandably, users were less than pleased with the idea that any corporation might be spying on them, no matter how unlikely the scenario. Many applications include permissions which are far broader than they should need — for example the recent criticism around Uber’s app and its permissions, which include obtaining your device ID, accessing your contacts and yes, using your camera. Should you be covering up every camera you carry and periodically searching the web to make sure overseas hackers or mega-corporations aren’t using your image without permission? Most hackers aren’t interested in your photos and videos unless there’s a personal grudge, while companies make app permissions as broad as possible to give them maximum legal leeway.
There’s always the chance that a free third-party app or email attachment come complete with a photo-taking, video-recording bit of malware hoping to peek into your personal life. Be smart: surf safely, hide your Internet business from prying eyes and maybe put that smartphone facedown with a book on top of it when you take a shower…just in case.
Paranoia Problems Deputy Technology Editor Ben Grubb of the Sydney Morning Herald keeps his smartphone camera covered with electrical tape at all times, fearing the unwelcome attentions of a hacker or corporation looking to grab photo or video of his daily activities.
Sure, this seems excessively paranoid — why would anyone care enough to grab random camera snaps or small videos — but is an increasingly popular trend. Shutter Speed According to Naked Security, University student Szymon Sidor says he created an Android app capable of taking photos and recording video even when the device’s screen is turned off.With all that said, if your line of work exposes you to some unusual situations or makes you or your data extra valuable, or you’re into security operations, then sure, go ahead and throw some tape on your webcam and call it a day.There isn’t much commitment involved, and if it makes you feel more comfortable, the peace of mind may be worth the small piece of tape from a roll.After all, in a wireless-enabled world where it’s possible to infect smartphones and tablets with a few lines of malware code and then steal everything from device IDs to passwords and bank account information, hacking the camera doesn’t seem like such a mean feat. Sidor’s app works by using a tiny, 1×1 pixel preview screen to keep the camera running in the background.This screen is often touted as security feature by Google — the camera won’t operate unless a preview is being displayed — but all Sidor had to do was reduce the size down to nearly invisible and he had no problem taking hidden photos.And in March, Naked Security also found an spyware app for Google Glass that allowed photo taking without having the glass display lit.