How To: The FBI Can Spy on Your Webcam Undetected: Here's How to Stop Them

The FBI Can Spy on Your Webcam Undetected: Here's How to Stop Them

The FBI Can Spy on Your Webcam Undetected: Here's How to Stop Them

Let's just say it's been a pretty bad year for spies and government agencies and an even worse one for the privacy of U.S. citizens. Edward Snowden blew the lid off the NSA's spy program, and the FBI was recently discovered to have the ability to access your webcam any time they want—without triggering the "camera on" light. Yeah, that means those Justin Bieber lip sync videos you recorded weren't just for your private collection.

If you find it unlikely that the FBI would do this, think about all those would-be hackers out there. Some already have the skills to hack into your webcam. They can even hijack your built-in mic.

Now, of course, both agencies are saying it's much ado about nothing, but let's be real. While the creation of these surveillance programs were designed to catch the "bad guys," the privacy and fundamental right of countless unknowing victims have been trampled on.

So much so, that a federal judge, Richard Leon, ruled the NSA program unconstitutional, saying: "I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary invasion' than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval."

Image via cbsistatic.com

So, while the FBI and even some overachieving hackers can remotely access your webcam and microphone, they can't do anything if the lens and mic is covered. Here are a few super simple ways to protect your webcam and privacy from secret agents or nefarious hackers.

  • If it's a detached webcam, just unplug it; it can't work without power from the USB bus.
  • For built-in cams, just cover the lens with tape. However, some tape, especially electrical tape, will leave behind a sticky residue after exposure to heat.
  • If you don't want to tape it directly, trying making a removable DIY webcam cover with tape and a paperclip.
  • If you never use your webcam, you can also take apart your laptop and disconnect it, though you'll probably void your warranty.

And don't underestimate the skills of your would-be hacker or rogue government agency. Your new Xbox One with Kinect may be a great time to spend a few hours playing Assassin's Creed, but who knows if the NSA or FBI are hacking into those devices, as well. Cell phones too...that FaceTime session with grandma could include a very homesick international spy. Verizon even filed a patent for a TV that watches you as you watch it, to "better serve you ads."

So, just be careful out there, because you never know who's watching.

Woman on computer image via Shutterstock, Picketers image via Dara Kerr/CNET

16 Comments

Does it occur to people to look at the electrical diagrams of a component before you go getting all warp speed into thinking that your laptop or cam can be hacked?

I mean seriously, a lot of those devices won't come on without the light because the light and the power to the camera are triggered by the exact same circuit at the same time.

Not only that but a good firewall software such as ESET Security on a system will block any unauthorized attempts to even connect to the computer without it throwing up red flags all over the place and not to mention that the devices are often hidden behind non-routed networks which elevate your security higher yet.

This nonsense is just another example of a story that detracts from the real issue at hand. It's the fact that they would even attempt to violate the privacy of the American people that should be the real outrage. The same simple steps you take to keep hackers off of your computer are the same steps you take to keep the NSA and FBI off of your computer. If you're one of the millions of Americans that are not intelligent enough to do this for yourself, hire someone that does and fix your home network or be prepared to be hacked and compromised.

This is a whole lot about nothing and will continue to be nothing more than a distraction.

I realize very well how talented people are out there as I have been in the IT Systems Engineering realm for 20 years now and I have seen some pretty amazing things. The problem is that this story is just too far beyond the ability of people to understand how many things have to be just right for someone to actually compromise their camera or mic on a computer from remote without some form of a clue as to where the system is at.

How would they even know how to find a specific laptop belonging to a specific person? It's not like they can pull a Batman here and single out one person by listening / watching all at the same time.. It just doesn't work like that..

If you need an article to tell you to cover the camera, or think writing such an article is a good idea, you have bigger problems.

master otw:

my question is .......if someboydy is using spoofed MAC and using hacked wifi(not his ip).............how can we trace that hacker .....????

Secret King:

Excellent question!

I just started a series on digital forensics and I'll include this subject in one of my tutorials soon. This is an issue that law enforcement deals with regularly. Basically, they simply limit their search to the surrounding neighborhood from the WiFi AP and they are usually successful, but what happens when someone uses a high gain antenna?

OTW

means we can only search to the surronding.........we don't hv any option to catch used device???

I didn't say we don't have options. I said that the FBI and other law enforcement only check the surrounding area. Much simpler and usually very effective.

hey mister know it all. Google "CALEA" and then go look at all the missing pages of open source native code that is supposed to be available to anyone who wants it. Not only can I get in your printer, cell phone,pc,mac, web cam, nanny cam...the list goes on buddy. TCP/IP IS ALL I NEED TO RIDE IN PIGGY BACK AND DROP MY PAYLOAD OF JAVA MIDLETS AND THEY ARE CROSS PLATFORM by design and pass silently through all firewalls and can be broadcast using UDP (user datgram protocol) just like the FBI and NSA are doing right now. So if you have any device that uses electricity from a wall outlet. Just know that I can silently enter your computer or any device that uses packet data . I come in through the electrical current its called ethernet and even if you don't have internet service. You device still has a mac address and it is you 'MEDIA ACCESS CONTROLLER" You might want to go back to school before you start saying such crap about something you know nothing about. People as skeptical as you either work for them directly spreading giggles at real technology or you just dont know what you are talking about.

:O

Jimmy:

Welcome to Null Byte! and thanks for this post! I agree 100%!

OTW

how shocking..............it means hacking is possible without IP ADRESS??????????????????

What if we disable our webcam on BIOS?

Hi there !

About built-in webcams: is it a good safety to disable it with special function keys to make it unreachable from outside ?

It seems to hide peripheral access, I checked lsusb results when my webcam was activated (cheese working fine) and when it's not activated (cheese says nothing's detected)... results are not the same, I have one line which is added when webcam is activated by special function keys.

Overachieving Hackers? I am almost 100% sure any of our friends and novices learning through occupytheweb already can create a malicious .exe, do some social engineering and shellter to send an undetectable file with a game or something from a friend's email, secure their meterpreter, and have durable webcam access whenever the computer is active. Anyone with Kali and a small Metasploit education can do it.

Share Your Thoughts

  • Hot
  • Latest