We live in such a digital era where people prefer to connect online rather than meeting in person. All credits go to the growing use of networking apps that help people to become tech-savvy. Video calling is one of the major aspects. This popular feature is popularly being provided by almost all major messengers such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber etc. Video calling was made a trend by famous video calling service ‘ Skype’. It was created with the aim to conduct video conferences and even video calls for people who can’t meet or live far away. But in the present era video calling or owning a webcam has become highly risky. Why? Well, it’s all due to a sudden rise in hacking webcam cases which is often known as ‘Camfecting’.
What is Webcam Hacking or Camfecting?
Webcam hacking or Camfecting is when attempting to hack someone else’s webcam and activating it without owner’s knowledge and permission. Once the hacker gains access he can keep a watch on the activities in the vision of the camera and the webcam owner himself. Camfecting is made possible by infecting the owner’s computer with a malware or virus which can grant them access to the victim’s computer. The hacking is carried out through Trojan infected software which the hacker sends to the victim’s computer. The software looks much similar to the original cam software and thus when the owner installs it the virus-infected software gets self-installed in the background. Once installed the hacker gains access to the webcam and hence controlling it in his will and clicking pictures which might include intimate and private ones.
One famous victim of Camfecting was Miss US Teen Cassidy Wolf who was targeted in 2013. The culprit was Jared James Abrahams who was guilty of hacking more than 150 women using software called Black shades which he used to obtain nude images and videos of the victims.
How Can Your Webcam Be Hacked?
There are multiple ways in which the hacker can gain access to your webcam.
- Using Remote Administration Tools(RATs)
RATs are software which can be downloaded by anyone and used to gain access to third person’s webcam. Remote Access Tool allows the hacker to gain access to the victim’s computer as if he is physically operating it. RAT software automatically gets downloaded without the knowledge of the user thus making them really dangerous. They can be downloaded from any website or P2P protocols like BitTorrent.
- Using Botnets
The botnet is a network of Internet-connected computers which can be controlled as a group to perform various tasks. The group of devices is controlled by a control software (C&C) which commands and runs the group. A botnet network can be used for cyber attacks such as DDOs and other malicious intentions.
- Using Malicious Codes
The hackers can use malicious codes in software and scripts to cause security breaches. Hackers mostly target software which is outdated because they lack security and are hence easier to gain access. So, if your computer has some outdated applications or you visit a malicious website then the hacker can inject malicious codes and gain access to your computer.
How To Know If The Webcam Is Hacked?
- The most evident way to notice if the webcam is hacked is to observe the indicator light of the webcam. If you notice the indicator light of the webcam blinking when you are not using it then it signals that someone else is using your webcam. There is also a possibility that a browser application is causing this but the event of blinking indicator should never be ignored and immediate measures should to taken to disinfect the system.
- When you run the webcam application and it displays an error message ” device is already under use” it signals that the camera has been hacked and is being controlled by a hacker. This is a sure shot sign of camera being hacked. The best thing to do is to uninstall the software from Control Panel and then restart the computer again.
- Open the task manager and check under the processes tab if the webcam is running. If it signals the camera is on then there is also a possibility that the settings are set to start the camera automatically when the computer starts. But if that’s not the case then it signals that the webcam is hacked.
How Can You Protect Yourself From Webcam Hacking?
- Install the latest version of antivirus software which limits the possibility of malware attacking your system. Most of the virus attacks happen because of the outdated software and absence of any antivirus software.
- An activating firewall is an option which ensures the traffic going in and out of your system is legitimate. An expert hacker might breach it but, in most cases, the firewall provides you with the protection you need.
- Update your webcam software which decreases the chance of it being targeted. Webcam software manufacturers often release updates to report bugs and patch up holes. It further decreases your software vulnerability to attacks.
- Avoid clicking on suspicious attachments which are often loaded with malware. Most of the malware are sent through emails so a close watch should be kept on them.
- Avoid interactions with strangers online. Advise your kids to refrain from any interaction with a stranger which might have malicious intentions.
- Avoid use of webcam websites such as ‘Omegle’ which is loaded with bots. Omegle is a really popular website among teenagers and is often used by hackers to prey on users.
- Secure your wireless connection and use a strong password.
- When the webcam is not in use consider covering the lens with a cover or cloth to limit the chance of it being used for filming by a hacker.
- Never use suspicious sites which offer you loads of free data such as music, movies, and games. These sites are often infected with malware and used to target victims.
- Stay alert to the blinking of the indicator of the webcam. Blinking while not in use surely signals a hacked webcam.