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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Thomas

4 ways to know if someone is watching you on your camera

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

You may be familiar with “Zoom Bombing,” where hackers interrupt online meetings with all sorts of spam. Whether this has happened to you or someone you know, in this era of video chatting and social media live streaming, your computer’s webcam can never be more relevant.

But, just like any other tech devices, webcams are prone to hacking, which can lead to a serious, unprecedented privacy breach. Think of a case where an authorized person accesses and illegally takes control of your webcam, without your knowledge. Such a person will effortlessly spy on you and the people around you. And, depending on the value and quantity of data stolen, there can be dire repercussions on your part.

Just because it hasn’t happened to you yet shouldn’t be a reason for you to imagine that you are safe. The art of criminals recording video footage and then extorting money from people through isn’t an idle Hollywood cliché; it happens to real people. That is why you should be extra careful whenever you see any suspicious changes to your camera.

How do hackers pull this off?

A webcam hacker doesn’t need much to take control of your webcam; all the hacker needs is to design malware that hijacks a webcam, remotely installs it into your computer, and then without your knowledge, starts to take videos and images of you from a remote location. If the hacker is interested in your personal information, such as files stored in the computer and your regular browsing history, the malware will help accomplish that, too.

That being said, you don’t need to panic! There are ways of knowing if a hacker is watching you on camera. Besides, it isn’t easy for anyone to control your webcam remotely without you noticing that something is amiss. Once you realize your vulnerability, you can always use a virtual private network or VPN to keep the hackers at bay.

Let’s look at four signs to check if your webcam is being used by hackers to spy on you.

#1: Does the camera misbehave?

If your webcam is modern enough, it has the ability to rotate and move in different directions in order to capture the best video/image at the most convenient angle. That is a cool feature when you are using it, but it increases your vulnerability when a hacker takes charge. Always be keen to check if the camera is moving or rotating without your command. If you realize any unusual movement, that is an indication that someone is spying on you.

Because webcams work synonymously with built-in microphones and speakers whenever you video chat, a misbehaving camera will most likely affect the mic and speakers as well. Be aware of this as well.

#2: Strange storage files

After a hacker records footage via your webcam, that video or audio footage will be saved among your existing storage files. That means that if a file pops up from nowhere, then that would be a red alert. Always check out for files you did not create, most particularly in your webcam recordings folder. You cannot also rule out the chances of the hacker having relocated some of their files and some of your files to new folders or to a location where you aren’t likely to check on a regular basis. For that, always comb every corner of your storage locations and confirm that your webcam settings are per your specifications at all times.

#3: Is the indicator light misbehaving?

Does your webcam indicator blink abnormally or go on without you prompting it? If so, someone could be controlling it without your consent. Sometimes, other computer programs or browser extensions that you are running in the background could be using your webcam, thus causing the abnormal blinking. On other occasions, the indicator will malfunction because of a technical problem with your computer. But, you shouldn’t leave anything to chance when it gets to your cybersecurity. Be on top of things at all times.

#4: Check for background apps

Sometimes malware will be sneaked into your computer as normal applications. This is especially the case when you are fond of downloading apps from unsecured websites, so a malware app finds an easy way to your operating system. Always be on the lookout for software/apps that are running on your computer without you having installed them.

Be aware and take action

While most of us are working remotely, we’re using our webcams more than ever to hold video meetings with our team and crew. If you’re holding these types of meetings, be aware of anything suspicious on the call, and only let team members in by giving them a password.

Putting that aside, your camera and files could still be hacked. Consider the four tips in this article as a guideline and take action when needed.

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