Yes, webcams can be hacked.

Webcams have re-emerged as a business tool to have since the start of the pandemic. Though they’ve never really been phased out, they did make a huge comeback when COVID forced employees to work remotely. However, with that convenience came the uptick of cybercrimes on all levels, including the hacking of webcams (yes, this includes laptop webcams and stand-alone webcams for workstations).

How do webcams get hacked?

Malware and ransomware are usually the main culprits. Malware infects your computer with software that can highjack your computer, while ransomware does the same but is used to threaten a user into paying a ransom in order to remove any hold the hacker has on files or software on the computer.
Because of this, a lot of malware tries to infect webcams so hackers can (possibly) get content that can be used to demand money. So, if that is the case, can’t you just cover your camera and call it a day? Not quite. If your computer is already infected with malware, a hacker can technically see what is on your screen, the sites you are visiting and so on. Meaning, its already too late.

Here’s what to look out for when it comes to webcams being hacked:

Your camera turns on randomly throughout the day. This is an easy issue to spot. Webcams have indicator lights. When the webcam is used for a video conference, it turns on. If you observe this indicator light turning on at unusual times, especially while you’re not using it, someone may be remotely controlling your webcam to spy on you.
If this happens, examine your programs, especially background apps. Check if any apps are activating your webcam. No app should ever turn on your webcam without your specific permission, therefore uninstall any responsible apps or alter their settings and access. It’s vital to rule out app settings activating the webcam when the app starts when determining if you’ve been hacked.
Browser extensions switch on your webcam
Web browser extensions might also switch on your webcam without your awareness. Check if your webcam light goes on when you open your browser (Chrome, Firefox, etc.). If so, t’s a sign you have a browser extension or add-on using your cam.
You can disable all extensions and then enable them one by one, then restart your browser to find the faulty extension. That extension trying to hack you? It may be a poorly conceived expansion. In either case, avoid it. Remove the problem and try another add-on.
Security Settings have been changed unexpectedly
Malware can change security settings to make camera control and video file sending and receiving easier. Check your camera app’s security and accessibility settings for anything unusual. Watch for altered or erased webcam passwords and suspicious camera programs.
In Windows 10, you can disable apps’ access to your camera. If you have antivirus software, check if its camera protections have been deactivated or modified. Look for disabled limited-access features and disabled webcam notifications (alerts that warn you when the webcam is being used). Antivirus software with camera features is worth looking for.
Check your operating system security for disabled firewalls or other safeguards. Watch these settings over time to see if they’re unexpectedly modified.

What can you do to prevent an attack on my webcam?

It’s crucial to have good anti-malware software to keep your webcam private, but you should also be mindful of the following:
  • Do not click links or attachments you are unfamiliar with. This counts on websites as well as in emails. Without knowing, you could be downloading malware, and that’s a no-no.
  • Make sure anti-virus/malware software is up to date. Threats are constantly updated so you want to make sure your software is as well in order to catch them. 
If you have any questions about webcam attacks or need help implementing any of the above-mentioned prevention tools, please feel free to contact us today at 818-501-2281 or 
Posted in IT Blog