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Should You Cover Your Laptop Camera?

Should you cover your laptop camera to prevent being spied on? Is it paranoia or just good sense?

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Should You Cover Your Laptop Camera?

There has been a security trend for quite some time that many people dismiss as simple paranoia. What is it? Covering your laptop’s webcam with a piece of tape. However, a recent photo of Facebook creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg next to his laptop has stirred a new conversation about security.

In the photo (seen above) you can clearly see a smiling Zuckerberg next to his laptop, with the camera covered in tape. While it isn’t a high tech solution, it is effective. No it won’t stop your laptop from being hacked, but it will prevent the hacker from using that camera against you.

Many security experts have spoken up stating that you aren’t paranoid if you do this, you are simply using good sense, even if you aren’t a high profile target like Zuckerberg.

“It’s just preventative maintenance — it removes the doubt of, ‘what if somebody got into his system,'” said Dave Lewis, a global security advocate who works for Akamai Technologies. “The easiest way to remove that lingering doubt is to just slap some tape over it. Problem solved.”

The fact is a hacker can gain access to your laptop or Chromebook without you even knowing about it. Often this happens through dirty links embedded in email or on websites.

“When you click on that link, something installs in the background because, by virtue of your action, you’ve allowed the software to install on your system,” said Lewis.

Unfortunately, celebrities, politicians and women are often most susceptible to this type of attack. The attacks on women can often be particularly nasty as well.

“Women on the internet get a lot of attention. Some of it good, a lot of it’s bad,” said Molly Sauter, a PhD candidate at Montreal’s McGill University. “And a lot of this attention really tends to be highly sexualized, and it tends to be highly threatening.”

But the same software is also used to hack more high profile targets just like Zuckerberg. “These are people that are regularly targeted by different hacking groups because of their work, and in some cases we have evidence that they’re spied on through their webcams,” John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto said.

These hackers or groups of hackers use the information they obtain and even pictures taken through the webcam to exhort their victims by threatening to expose compromising photos to the public. At the same time, just the very thought that your laptop has been hacked and used to snap pictures of you is very invasive.

Of course, many people who aren’t considered high profile may think it just isn’t worth it. But is it really worth taking the risk? Especially given how easy and effective a simple piece of tape really is?

“It’s physical security that seems really basic, but it’s also the most secure,” Sauter said.

As you can see, using a little piece of tape on your laptop camera may not seem so paranoid after all. If you are concerned about security, this low tech solution may be the best one for you. So get that tape out today and protect yourself from yet another potential invasion into your privacy.

By Matt Garrett

Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing on our sister ShopNinja sites where he enjoys talking about anything and everything tech.

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