Is the camera on your laptop a security risk?

Your computer camera can be used to spy on you in both business and your personal life.
Your computer camera can be used to spy on you in both business and your personal life.

We use the cameras on our laptops and our phones and other mobile devices a great deal. Pictures for Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest and more are post every day. Videos are recorded for those sites and more at an ever increasing rate. People use those cameras for live-streaming as well. People are using them to record their drives, the interactions with others and even their confrontations with authorities. We use them to record our visions of the world, but have you ever thought that your camera may be recording someone else’s vision of you?

Yes, your camera may be watching you

According to an article by Katie Rogers in the June 22, 2016 issue of The New York Times your camera on your device can be used to spy on you. Malicious software can reverse the camera’s functionality and can make it a window into your world, both personal and work. It can be used by any number of people. Rogers reported that it is not just the pervs that want to watch your teenage daughter undress at night, it also includes governments that feel they need to spy on you. It is such a threat that Mark Zuckerberg  and FBI Director James Comey both take precautions to protect themselves. Rogers in her article said that many “high value” individuals and security personnel take precautions to protect themselves from unwanted viewing by electronic peeping Toms. Security professionals suggest that everyone needs to do this.

What about at work?

The warnings about this intrusion on a personal level are more likely to capture our attention than warnings about work, but the potential intrusions at work can be even more devastating the someone catching you in your underwear. Organizations that have highly guarded trade secrets or conduct highly confidential discussions may be a much more attractive target for intrusion that they might suspect. A meeting held in a boardroom while someone has a laptop open may be providing a portal for industrial espionage. Think of all those confidential discussions that could potentially reveal a wealth of information about company operations just by having a hacked laptop.

How to protect yourself

Having a good malware detector on your laptop will provide some of the protection you need to have, but Zuckerberg and Director Comey take additional measures. They cover the cameras with a block of some sort. They can be as simple as a sticky note or a piece of tape, or you can buy reusable decorative stickers or even slides that can be attached to the laptop and opened and closed as needed. By the way your phone needs to be protected too.
Thanks to attorney Patrick Fowler of Snell & Wilmer for the inspiration for this post.

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