We at SpyCamLife have researched PC security issues thoroughly, and can tell you that it’s unlikely that your laptop camera is spying on you…But it IS possible. However there are a host of precautions you can take to prevent bad actors getting access to your laptop camera and invading your privacy in this malicious way.
Barely a week seems to pass without some new data protection scandal hitting the news cycle. Not only that, but we’ve all heard of Edward Snowden and his frankly terrifying revelations of the scope of Government agency surveilance in Western Countries like the UK, USA, Canada and Australia.
So it’s no surprise that people ask Google whether their laptop camera is spying on them.
By the way, did you know that both former FBI Director James Comey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg both put tape over their laptop camera when not in use? More on this later…
How Your Laptop Can Be Compromised
There are 2 main ways an unauthorised person can gain access to your laptop camera (and all of your laptop data).
(i) Through physical access i.e. when you leave the laptop unattended and not password protected, someone can access it, nose through your files and possibly install spying software.
(ii) Through malware which is software that hijacks the functions of your PC and allows unwanted users access to your files and hardware devices. In some cases, this malware allows the hacker to turn on your laptop camera without switching on the usual light that lets you know the camera is on. Very sneaky, but this is what you must expect from people like this. They don’t want you to know what they are doing.
Malware usually infects your PC when you browse less savoury corners of the internet and install dodgy programs, or by clicking on email attachments and authorising downloads of software.
Protecting Your Laptop Hacking (Unauthorised Access)
(i) To protect yourself from these attacks, firstly make sure that you never leave your laptop unattended with anyone you don’t know well or trust. Sounds obvious, but a lot of people don’t think about it.
You wouldn’t leave your credit cards or large amounts of cash lying around, so you need to think of your laptop in a similar fashion. With a large % of personal finance and business conducted online, there’s a good chance that your laptop contains sensitive information that is worth a lot of money to bad actors with some tech knowledge.
Don’t make yourself an easy target!
(ii) Secondly, ensure that you have auto screen lock enabled so that the laptop will automatically lock after a minute or two of inactivity. Yes, it’s a pain to keep unlocking the PC, but this basic protection will safeguard your PC against most people who don’t know how to circumvent password protection, especially when they only have a few minutes to act (before you return).
Protecting Your PC From Malware
(i) Get Good Laptop Security Software.
You should protect your laptop from malware by installing antivirus, anti spyware, a firewall, and other associated tools. There are actually a whole host of free tools available nowadays. At SpyCamLife we are happy to use the Panda Antivirus suite, which meets all of the basic needs and does the job perfectly well. It’s a free tool you can download (safely!) online.
It’s key that you install security software that has a small footprint, which basically means it doesn’t slow the PC down unduly. There is nothing worse than having a fully protected PC that is functionally unusable because it simply runs too slowly. Some of the more popular (and expensive) commerically available security programs dramatically slow down your PC’s functions, so do your research first and be careful.
(ii) Be very wary about downloading any files.
Hackers use all sorts of deception to mask the real files that they intend to install on your PC. As a general rule of thumb, STOP before you download ANYTHING on your PC that you do not fully trust. If you don’t trust the website or email where the attachment comes from, don’t install it. Despite what they webpage or video tells you.
Hackers and scammers are thoroughly unscrupulous, unsavoury characters. They don’t have a normal sense of morality or fair play. They will do whatever it takes to get access your files, or even try to bribe you. Some of their tactics are incredibly sophisticated and / or scary to the average person.
Just follow the golden rule above, and be sceptical of anything you read or watch online.
NB Be aware that scammers and hackers are usually confined to the more dodgy reaches of the internet. They don’t just suddenly appear on your PC out of nowhere. For the average person who browses vanilla websites, they probably won’t be much of an issue.
(iii) Change Your Wifi Passwords Regularly (Use Strong Passwords)
It’s generally a good idea to change your Wifi passwords regularly, and especially when your first get the router. There are simple online intructions on how to do this – check here
Strong passwords are passwords that are impossible to guess, usually because they are long, and contain a mixture of capital and non capital letters, numbers and alphanumeric characters that no human would think of. Everyone should use them on any secure device as a general rule of thumb.
You can easily generate strong passwords by using this website:
Finally, try to avoid using public Wifi connections such as cafes, airport lounges or public wifi hotspots. They are much more likley to be targetted by hackers , and sometimes simpler to crack for bad actors who share information on security vulnerabilities of public hotspots like these.
(iv) Notify When Camera Is In Use
If you haven’t done this already, go to your PC’s settings and ensure that the camera notify’s you when it’s in use. Usually this will be by turning on a small light next to the camera.
However, be aware that most hackers have already thought of this. Bottom line : if they can get access to your PC, they can probably turn on the laptop camera without turning on the notification light. So this tip is not all that effective in most cases.
Simply Cover Your Camera When Not In Use
Of course the most obvious protection is to cover your laptop camera when not in use. After all, if it’s good enough for the former director of the FBI, it’s good enough for me and you, right?
Signs That You May Have Been Hacked
If you suspect the worst, check out the following typical symptoms that your PC has been compromised:
(i) You are suddenly unable to access your PC / social media accounts / bank
Hackers will typically change passwords so that you are no longer able to access your machine. Once they do this, they will scan through your files and attempt to gain access to your bank, social media accounts etc.
If you suddenly find you cannot login to your PC or email, it’s wise to check yoru bank immediately and call them if you are locked out there too. They will probably capture fraudulent activities using their own systems, but contact them as soon as possible to mitigate the risk.
(ii) Weird pop up boxes start flashing up on your PC and / or your PC slows down drastically.
This is one of the most annoying symptoms of your PC being hacked. If your PC normally runs smoothly and notifications suddenly start flashing up everywhere, it’s a good sign your PC has been hacked.
(iii) Money starts to dissappear from your account.
You should NEVER let this happen, which is why we advise you to keep an eye open for any other symptoms and call your bank(s) IMMEDIATELY if you suspect your PC has been compromised.
Luckily, banks will usually protect against fraudulent activity and have the capability to reverse any payments / charges that have been made in yoru name if it was carried out fraudulently. Nevertheless, it’s a lot of hassle , so always take action to prevent a hacked PC leading to your bank accounts being raided.
Please do not let this article scare you. If you simply cover your laptop camera when not in use, it’s impossible to take photos or videos of you in compromising postions.
However, it’s best to prevent rather than just deal with the symptoms, and hacking is a serious issue. If you’re PC is compromised, worrying about the laptop camera is the least of your concerns, and the most easily dealt with (cover it up!)
The good news is that hacking is rare, and is preventable in the vast majority of cases by following the procedures outlined in this article. Don’t let these scumbags ruin your online browsing pleasure.
Until next time – stay safe online!