Watch out! Signs your webcam's been hijacked and how to defend yourself

Webcam hacking, also known as “camfecting”, has become increasingly plausible in the era of modernised webcams
The illustration shows a laptop webcam covered with a tape. — Pixabay
The illustration shows a laptop webcam covered with a tape. — Pixabay

Picture this: Someone secretly gaining access to your computer's camera, silently observing or recording your every move without your knowledge. The idea alone is enough to send shivers down your spine, pushing many to disconnect entirely from their devices.

Believe it or not, hackers can execute this nightmare scenario with just a few strokes of malicious code, infiltrating your system and hijacking your webcam. They slip in undetected, capitalising on any vulnerability in your device's security.

Webcam hacking, also known as “camfecting”, has become increasingly plausible in the era of modernised webcams and the omnipresence of data-collecting software and devices. Your laptop, tablet, or smartphone — all vulnerable to being seized for an invasion of your personal privacy.

Decoding signs of a hacked webcam can be challenging, but not impossible. Cybersecurity experts have outlined key indicators to recognise and strategies to fortify yourself and your gadgets. Let’s delve into the red flags and protective measures.

Protective measures

Device battery

First off, keep an eye on your device's battery. An unexpectedly rapid drainage could signal a breach, as hackers often tap into cameras to record sneakily, demanding additional power. Consulting your Task Manager for power consumption details might reveal irregularities and hint at a compromised webcam.

Another giveaway

The blinking light adjacent to most webcams that typically illuminates when the camera is in use. If this light flickers despite your camera not being in operation, it might spell trouble. Similarly, iPhones emit a green dot if the camera and microphone are active, or an orange dot if only the mic is on — indications you're being watched. Shutting down all apps and yet witnessing the light's continuous glow could prompt a malware scan for camera integrity.

The worst-case scenario arises if a hacker contacts you, threatening to expose sensitive images. This situation indicates a potential webcam breach through sextortion or similar malicious schemes. Spam phishing emails adopting these tactics should be dismissed as scams if they lack substantial proof.

Infected mails

Beware of infected emails and links leading to suspicious sites. These serve as gateways for hackers to inject malware into your system, compromising your webcam's security. Torrenting, too, poses risks, as malicious software camouflaged as seemingly harmless content could infiltrate your device, commandeering your camera.

Moreover, hackers adeptly mimic popular websites by tweaking web domain names, luring unsuspecting users into infectious domains. Visiting such sites just once is sufficient for the code to create a backdoor entry, enabling access to your webcam.

Physical access

Lastly, if a remote technician has had access to your computer, there's potential for future webcam intrusion. Technicians handling remote computer repairs might exploit this access later to breach your privacy.

Protecting yourself

To fortify against such invasions, consider employing webcam covers or makeshift solutions like tape or paper. Regularly updating your operating system, using a robust firewall and antivirus software, and exercising caution with email attachments and unknown links can bolster your defences. Secure your WiFi network and consider employing a VPN to cloak your IP address, rendering it invisible to potential hackers.