Privacy Tip: Cover Your Computer Camera and Microphone

Someone may be using your laptop or your desktop web camera to watch and listen to you without your knowledge. It happens, and yes, it’s downright creepy.  And to think that someone may be spying on your kids that way is truly alarming.  But there is an easy fix to better protect yourself and your family.laptop-1606678_960_720

The Problem

Malware programs that allow a hacker to secretly access computer cameras and microphones have been around for years. As recently reported by the New York Times in June, a 2015 report released by the nonprofit Digital Citizens Alliance indicates that the practice is a growing problem for consumers, especially young women.  To demonstrate how a hacker can infect a family’s laptop with such malicious software, the NBC Today Show ran this story.  It ran a similar story in 2013.

Notably, while FBI Director James Comey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg are on opposing sides of several on-going privacy debates between tech companies and law enforcement, they both cover their laptop cameras and microphones to thwart uninvited eyes and ears.  Zuckerburg’s practice of covering his office laptop camera and microphone with tape was noted in this article posted in July.  FBI Director Comey has publicly acknowledged that he covers his laptop camera for personal security reasons, and urges others to do the same.

The Solution

While keeping your laptop computer’s internet security and anti-virus software up to date can reduce the risk that such malware will infect your computer, there are other simple steps that you should consider that are both quick and easy to accomplish.  First, turn the power off and keep the laptop lid down when it is not being used.  If you have a desktop webcam, unplug the camera when not in use.  Second, when you’re using your laptop, cover the microphone and camera with a piece of opaque tape, a post-it note, or even a sliding cover that can be purchased on-line.  Tell your kids and parents to do the same.

Stay tuned for further tips.

This entry was posted in Cyber Security, Electronic devices, FBI, Privacy.

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