Webcams are internet-connected cameras that allow you to connect with someone or record videos.
Webcams can be built into your computer or bought separately. They can also be used to see who you’re chatting to, record videos, as a baby monitor or to support your home security.
How do webcams get hacked?
Hackers use malware to remotely access and control your webcam.
This type of malware is known as Remote Access Trojans or RATs. Once installed, hackers can turn on your webcam and see exactly what it sees. This type of malware is often mistakenly installed via an unsafe click from a website or email.
Remember: Be wary and don’t click on links in unexpected emails or messages from people or organisations you don’t know.
What’s the risk?
Cybercriminals hack webcams to stalk people or exploit the device for use in a botnet.
A botnet is a collection of devices that might include your computer, mobile phone and other devices connected to the internet, which are infected and remotely controlled to carry out malicious activities. Typically, the owner of the device has no way of knowing a botnet has infected their system.
There have been many media reports of hacked baby monitors, blackmail threats with stolen footage, and stalkers arrested after police found they were watching victims through hacked webcams.
- In 2016, hackers hijacked baby monitors (among other connected devices) to form a botnet that targeted high profile websites such as Twitter, PayPal and Spotify.
- Cybercriminals have also scammed people via video calls where the victim was pressured into explicit activity, only to have the footage secretly recorded and used later for blackmail.
How to protect yourself
While many people opt for a piece of tape over the camera, chances are if your webcam is hacked, then your entire system is in the hands of a hacker.
Follow these simple steps to keep your entire system safe.
For inbuilt webcams:
- install all operating system and software updates when prompted
- install anti-virus software and run regular scans
- always practice safe browsing
- don’t accept video calls from people you do not know.
For stand-alone webcams:
- install software updates for the application it uses
- change the default password
- keep it turned off when not in use.
Read more about click safety.