There's a good reason so many people tape over their computer webcams or use a special webcam cover to turn them off: webcams can be hacked, meaning hackers can turn them on and record you whenever they want , usually with a "RAT" or a remote management tool that has been secretly uploaded.
This type of attack can target anyone. Ransomware attempts generally seek to control everything that can be used to make money As a result, many malware tries to infect webcams so that hackers can get (potentially) extortion-appropriate content.To maintain the privacy of your webcam, it's important to have good anti-malware software, but you should also know the signals if someone has taken control of your camera Here's what to look for
The light on your webcam turns on at strange times
This is one of the easiest problems to look for: your computer webcam next to it should have a small indicator light. You can turn it on when the webcam is activated for something like a video conference.
However, if you notice that this indicator light comes on at odd times, especially when you don't use it this is a telltale sign that someone has taken over your webcam remotely and is using it to take a closer look take.
If you notice this, you should quickly check your running apps, including apps that are currently running in the background. See if active apps turn on your webcam yourself. In most cases, no app should ever turn on your webcam without your express permission, so this is a good reason to delete apps you think are responsible … or at least some serious tweaks to their settings and access. But in some cases it can be a problem with app settings that activate the webcam when the app is turned on, and it is important to rule this out if you are hacked.
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Bill Roberson / Digital Trends
Browser extensions are another possible cause of turning on your webcam without you knowing it. Check that your webcam's indicator light turns on every time you open your internet browser (Chrome, Firefox, etc.). That is an indication that you have an extension or add-on in your browser that uses your camera.
You can disable all your extensions and then re-enable them one by one, then restart your browser each time to determine which extension may be causing the problem. Is that extension actively trying to hack you? Maybe not – it could just be a poorly designed extension. Either way, you're better off without it. Remove the culprit and look for another solution.
There are unexpected webcam video files stored on your computer
Let's say a hacker manages to remotely take control of your webcam, changes to and tries to record with it . What happens then? Well, malware can be very sophisticated in some ways, but very limited in others, which means that those recorded videos will still be stored on your hard drive even if a hacker tries to collect them.
This means one of the easiest way to check if you have been hacked is to open your hard drive folders and check for weird webcam video files that you have not saved. You'd be surprised how many people never notice that these files exist, or how easily they can get lost in cluttered file systems. The video files can have arbitrary names or tags, so check out strange video files and see if it looks like some were created with malicious intent.
To find them, look for a special webcam folder, since most webcams automatically save videos to their own files when used for recording. This is usually in your documents section. Otherwise, check other video folders your computer has created in this area.
Your security settings have been changed in weird ways
Malware can also change the security settings to make it easier to control the webcam and send or receive video files (mischief, among others). Open your webcam app and check the security and accessibility settings to see if something seems out of place or has been suspiciously turned off. Pay special attention to webcam passwords that have been changed or removed and strange apps that can access your camera. In Windows 10, you can also disable the ability for apps to access your camera, which can be a good choice.
If you have antivirus software, make sure webcam protection is turned off or changed – look for restricted access features that are disabled and webcam notifications (alerts that tell you when the webcam is used) that are turned off, as they typically turn on automatically when the software is activated. Not all antivirus software has webcam features, but they are definitely worth checking out.
Also check the security of your operating system to see if any firewalls or other security measures have recently been disabled. Keep an eye on these settings so you know if they seem to have changed suddenly.
Your virus scan reveals suspicious apps
Good antivirus software is adept at scanning your computer for suspicious files or activities. If you have an antivirus app, run a manual scan and see if it reports malware or suspicious activity on your computer. Check the details to see if your webcam may have been compromised and have your antivirus software remove suspicious apps or content.
Malware may try to install a RAT on your system to access your webcam, a practice sometimes called 'camfecting' is called. Widespread malware attacks that have used this tactic include Blackshades, Rbot-GR, Mirai and InvisiMole. If your antivirus software mentions possible infection from something like that, then you know what may have happened to your camera.
If you don't have an antivirus app, you'll love our guide to the best options available for free.
You get a message from a hacker
If it gets worse, a hacker will send you a message and try some form of extortion about webcam videos. That's how they try to get money – often through an obscure bitcoin wallet address or a similar payment method.
Treat these messages like any phishing attempt. They almost always contain lies about what a hacker has done or has access to, and they are often a vehicle for installing ransomware on your computer. Usually, hackers retrieve contacts and password information from dark web lists and send thousands of these emails at once, hoping someone gets scared enough to send money. There is no reason to assume that someone is in control of your webcam unless they actually provide evidence for webcam images.
If you receive a message, do not respond. Do not click on files or links, even if the message states that there is evidence of webcam videos. Don't send money to anyone. Instead, just install some robust anti-malware software to check for any problems and change your passwords to increase your security. A good password manager can help you generate strong passwords automatically, or you can practice our tips on choosing better passwords if you create one yourself.