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A webcam is a digital camera that is connected to a computer and allows users to send a live picture from any location to another. Nowadays, webcams are typically built in to most devices, but users also have the option of adding an external webcam if their computer or laptop doesn’t come with one. 

Whether you are using one to join a conference call or to catch up with the kids when you are away from home, there’s a wide range of things that you can do with a webcam. Yet, what many people forget is that they are vulnerable to being hacked. 

In 2017, around 17 million residents in the UK were victims of cybercrime, with TigerMobiles stating that you are far more likely to fall victim to cybercrime than any other kind of crime in the UK. 

Hackers can install malware by tricking you into clicking on a dangerous link, accessing your private network, or by sending you suspicious emails. 

Fortunately, there are different steps you can take to prevent your webcam from being hacked and ensure your webcam, but most importantly your privacy is protected.

Here is our list of steps you can take to secure your webcam:

  • Cover it up
  • Disable your webcam
  • Secure your Wi-Fi
  • Get a VPN
  • Scan your device for webcam-related malware
  • Look for the indicator light
  • Avoid opening attachments from unknown sources
Taped webcam on a laptop | Photo: janjf93 via Pixabay

Taped webcam on a laptop | Photo: janjf93 via Pixabay

Cover it up:

It may seem like a simple solution, but it is the most effective in ensuring no one is spying on you through your webcam. To be certain that your webcam is protected from potential hackers, use a webcam cover to cover it. Essentially, a webcam cover is a piece of plastic or metal which can be placed over the lens of your device to cover the camera.

Although things like post-it notes or electrical tape do cover your webcam camera, try to avoid using these items as they can leave a sticky residue behind and can easily fall off.

If you are not wanting to cover up the camera for any reason, close your laptop when it’s not in use or when you want to be confident that you are not in view of the camera.

Disable your webcam:

If you know you are not going to be using your webcam for a period of time, consider disabling it. Disabling your webcam will ultimately prevent hackers from accessing your camera.

If you have a built-in webcam you can disable the camera on your Mac through following a series of steps or through using Device Finder on your Windows PC.

If you are using an external webcam, you can disconnect it by either unplugging it from your computer or the mains – this method will completely disable your webcam from being used in any application.

Secure your Wi-Fi:

Securing your wireless network is an important step in guaranteeing your webcam is protected. Hackers may target your wireless network or router as a way to gain access into your personal network, like your emails, passwords and files.

There are various steps you can take to make sure your wireless network is secure and protected from potential hackers. Though, one of the easiest things you can do is to create a strong password. Try to avoid using the same password you use for other devices and services, but instead, create a random and unique password that doesn’t include any personal info. In addition to creating a strong password, it’s important to change your password frequently to prevent security breaches.

If possible, try to avoid using unsecured public Wi-Fi in places such as cafes and airports as they require no authentication – meaning hackers can use this as a route to distribute malware.

Get a virtual private network (VPN):

Use a virtual private network (VPN) connection to ensure your network connection is secure when using your webcam for online communications. 

A VPN allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the internet. It creates a secured, private network from any Wi-Fi network you access, whether that be at home or in public. Installing a VPN adds an extra layer of security to your computer and assures a safer internet experience.

Scan your device for malware: 

To prevent your computer from catching malware, it’s important to keep your operating system and web browser up-to-date. On top of this, it’s crucial to run anti-malware scans to protect your computer and files against viruses.

Use a trusted security software like Kaspersky, and regularly scan your computer for malware and webcam-related spyware. Installing a security software will help to defend your devices from viruses, malware, ransomware and other cyber threats.

You will also need a second opinion malware scanner to act as a second line of defence in case your primary software fails to detect malware. Typically, hackers are very good at bypassing traditional security methods to infect your computer with webcam-focused malware. Using a second opinion malware scanner, such as Malwarebytes, alongside your primary virus scanner, will help to catch any malware infections and keep your webcam secure. 

Look for the indicator light:

Most recent laptops and computers show a small light to indicate when the webcam is in use. If you are not using your webcam and spot that the light comes on, it could be a warning sign that something unusual is going on. If so, either cover your webcam or disconnect it and run a scan for any potential malware.

Don’t open attachments from unknown sources or click on suspicious links:

If you receive an attachment from someone you don’t know or don’t trust the link, don’t open it. Often, scammers trick users into opening an email attachment or link which will be loaded with malware. This malware will then be downloaded onto your computer without you knowing. Generally, if you don’t know the sender, don’t open the link or attachment.

If your friend or colleague has sent you a suspicious link you aren’t sure about, drop them a message or phone call to check that they are the ones who have actually sent you the attachment.

Now that you are aware of what steps to take, why not invest in a secure webcam cover to protect your webcam from being hacked? 

Anya Beuzeval

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