As computer repair techs, we frequently see laptops that come in with tape over the camera. While it’s easy to dismiss this as the habit of people who wear tinfoil hats in their spare time, lots of consumers are legitimately concerned about the security of their computer camera.

So, what’s the truth? Is your computer camera a security threat waiting to happen? Or are these fears unfounded? Here’s what you need to know.

The Security Implications of Your Computer Camera

Last year, FBI Director James Comey added fuel to the speculation surrounding the security of webcams by admitting during a speech that he tapes over the webcam lens on his computer. Needless to say, many people found this alarming.

So, let’s get down to brass tacks: yes, your webcam can act as a peephole.

In recent years, hackers and viruses have exploited the widespread nature of webcams and developed methods to target your webcam, smart television, video baby monitors, and more. In recent years, stories about everyday people who have had their webcams hacked have surfaced. One Minnesota family had their nanny-cam hacked, for example, while a woman in Toronto was recorded watching Netflix by a hacker who took over her webcam.

Don’t worry, though: there’s a silver lining. While it is possible for your computer’s camera to become a security threat, there are also smart steps you can take to reduce the chance of being spied on by hackers.

How to Maintain Your Privacy Online

If you’re worried about someone peeping at you through your webcam, you could just put a small piece of tape over your webcam. You could also take the following steps:

  • Be Careful About the Attachments you Click. Most of the time hackers access your camera, they do it through something called a RAT: remote administration tool. These tools allow hackers to access your PC and take control of your webcam. While they’re typically part of a larger malware problem, RATs can come as an isolated issue, as well. With this in mind, be careful not to click or download any suspicious attachments, as this is how viruses and malicious software travel.
  • Check for Malware Frequently. Even if you’re smart about not downloading spammy attachments, you’ll still want to conduct regular virus checks. Use a malware scanning software to check your computer for problematic software and programs. There are dozens of free malware scanners out there. If you’re not sure which is right for you, contact your local computer repair techs for advice. You’ll also want to be sure you’re keeping your computer’s software up to date and that anything you download is coming from a reputable source.
  • Watch for the Indicator Light. When your computer’s webcam goes on, the “indicator light” next to it goes on as well. This is a tell-tale sign that your laptop’s webcam is in use. If you notice your indicator light turning on when you’re not using your webcam, see a computer repair specialist for virus removal.
  • Use a Firewall. A firewall is a piece of software or hardware that monitors your network’s incoming and outgoing traffic to prevent unauthorized access. If you haven’t already, go to your computer’s control panel and turn on your firewall. This is one of the easiest ways to prevent hackers from compromising your computer’s camera.
  • Be Cautious About Your Webcam Use. Keep yourself safe by being careful about how you use your webcam. Don’t ever use it to chat with strangers or during private activities.

Better Webcam Security Starts Here

Today, virtual threats seem like they’re lurking around every corner. Luckily, you don’t have to hide your head in the sand and avoid the digital world to prevent falling victim to them. By taking precautionary measures to prevent unauthorized access, you can insulate yourself against the security threats of the digital age.

No tinfoil hats required.