Webcam hacking: How to spot and prevent an intrusion
October 25, 2023 6 minute
Hackers can install malware and access computer, tablet, security, and Internet of Things (IoT) device cameras. If successful, webcam hacking exposes the owners to threats like blackmail and identity theft. In this guide, we’ll cover a few tricks for identifying warning signs, resolving existing threats, and how you can help protect your webcam from hackers with Norton 360 Deluxe.
Sometimes called “camfecting,” webcam hacking occurs when an unauthorized user accesses a device owner’s webcam without their knowledge or consent.
Typically, the bad actor (cam hacker) infects electronic devices with a virus. The virus allows them to view and record footage from the owner’s computers, tablets, smart TVs, and phone cameras. It also opens the owner up to security and blackmail threats.
How to know if someone is watching you through your camera
These days, most people own a video conferencing or chat-enabled device. The enhanced interconnectedness brings internet users closer together, allowing them to catch up, hold meetings, and livestream video games.
Unfortunately, it can also leave internet users vulnerable to threats.
To ensure you catch any webcam snooping attempts early on, keep a few top warning signs in mind at all times. Here are some indicators that you have a hacked webcam:
Indicator light remains on even when you aren’t actively using video: A lot of modern technology receives instruction from software—this includes your computer’s camera and LED indicators. Unfortunately, hackers can access this software with malware and see anything in your camera’s field of vision. When they do this, it can cause the indicator light to flicker on.
New files appear on your device without your knowledge: Files you don’t recognize may appear harmless at first glance. However, those files can be concealed malware that a hacker is using to access your device.
Background apps use an unusual amount of data: The malicious apps hackers use to watch people through their webcams often run continuously in the background, eating up your internet or mobile hotspot’s data allowance.
Battery drains faster than usual: Camhacking software can drain your computer’s battery quickly by running background apps and carrying out activities that strain the device.
Settings change from their previous settings: The software hackers use to access webcams can also allow them into the computer system. Once they’re in, they can adjust the computer settings to remove security measures or leave the door open for future attacks.
Camera glitches while you’re using it: This warning sign is often inconspicuous but can appear as sudden camera movements, or the camera app may crash altogether.
If you discover any issues on your computer and are unsure of how to remove the malware yourself, immediately disconnect or cover your webcam. Then, seek help from a qualified IT professional.
How to protect against webcam hacking
To protect your device against webcam spyware, you need an unshakeable defensive line.
Here are nine best practices you should follow to help stop webcam hackers from slipping past you:
Update your operating system as soon as updates come out: Regular software updates often patch vulnerabilities, helping to keep your device secure and prevent bad actors from accessing your computer camera.
Lock down your network with a firewall: A firewall is a network security system that helps stop unauthorized users from accessing or controlling your webcam, among other things.
Create strong passwords and don’t reuse them on different accounts: Repeat passwords make it easy for cybercriminals to break into your accounts and find personal information. Using this information, they can reset your passwords and easily gain entrance—especially if you own an external webcam.
Cover your camera: Even if someone finds a way to take over your webcam, you can still stop them from spying on you by covering the cam with tape, a sticker, or a webcam cover until you can remove the malware.
Avoid clicking on suspicious links: Hackers may use phishing schemes, encouraging a device owner to download malicious software onto their device. If they’re successful, hackers can access the device, its webcam, and private data stored on it.
Don’t share personal information: Only share sensitive information with trustworthy people who need to know—and never on social media or over the phone. Bad actors can use the private details you share with them to change or guess your passwords and access your webcam.
Use a virtual private network (VPN): Encrypt your network connection with a VPN to help secure your online communications, conceal your identity and IP address, and protect yourself when using public Wi-Fi.
Hire a computer technician to service your computer: Select a reputable and knowledgeable IT specialist to install antivirus software or remove malware.
Install security software like Norton 360 Deluxe on all of your devices: Choose software that can help safeguard tech against viruses, spyware, and other malware.
Help safeguard your webcam with Norton 360 Deluxe
Help protect against the threat of webcam hacking with a powerful solution like SafeCam—a feature of Norton 360 Deluxe—that helps block hackers from gaining unauthorized access to Windows PC webcams. And learn how Norton 360 Deluxe can help prevent malware from infecting your devices and offer some peace of mind.
Camhacking warning signs can appear differently across devices. Learn more about what you should look out for to identify issues early.
Can your webcam be on without the light?
If your computer’s LED light is managed by firmware—microcode that keeps device hardware functioning properly—it’s possible for someone to activate your webcam without turning on the light. However, if the LED is hardwired to the camera, someone would need to physically damage the wiring or electrical circuits.
Why is my camera on when I'm not using it?
The most likely reason is you forgot to close out of an app like FaceTime or Zoom that uses video. To check this, close all of your open applications and restart your computer. Once you’re done, the light should turn off.
If it doesn’t, someone may have remotely accessed your webcam.
What are the two dots next to my laptop camera?
Not all laptops have two dots next to the webcam. However, for those that do, one is likely an LED that notifies the user when their light is on, and the other is often a microphone.
In some cases, they can also be a “sensor array,” which is responsible for automatic brightness adjustments.
How do I know if my webcam is on?
The easiest way to determine if your webcam is on is to look for the indicator light. It’s usually red, blue, or green. If you don’t see it but believe your webcam is active, you can:
Review your device task manager to look for unusual activity.
Disconnect from the internet.
Use antivirus software to scan for malware.
Inspect your device for external hardware.
Consult with a reputable computer technician.
Can webcams still be hacked?
Yes, it’s still possible to hack a camera in 2024.
Electronics manufacturers and antivirus software vendors have taken action to reduce the threat of cybersecurity risks in recent years. However, vulnerabilities can still arise, especially if users don’t stay current with software updates or practice internet safety.
How to check webcam history?
Webcam history is a bit different than a typical search history. In this case, you will simply check your device settings to see which applications are currently using your camera.
If you notice any unfamiliar apps, revoke their camera permissions.
Clare Stouffer, a Gen employee, is a writer and editor for the company’s blogs. She covers various topics in cybersecurity.
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