In yesterday’s Scam of the day I told you about the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) legal action against D-Link in regard to security problems with their routers and IP cameras. While IP cameras are somewhat different from Webcams, it is important to secure the more common webcams as well. Webcam hacking is a major problem. Fortunately, there are simple precautions you can take to prevent your webcam from being hacked.
For years, cybercriminals have hacked into the webcams of their victims to obtain photographs and videos that they could use to blackmail their victims. Jared Abrahams was convicted of hacking the computers of at least twelve women and attempting to blackmail them. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Among the women victimized by Abrahams was Cassidy Wolf, Miss Teen USA. Abrahams hacked into the webcams of his victims’ computers to take nude photos of the young women, many of whom were caught by the webcams of their computers as they undressed in their bedrooms. He then contacted the young women and threatened to post the photos on social media unless they sent him additional pictures or posed for him on Skype.
Often when people install webcams, they use easily obtained default logins and passwords. These default passwords are easy to find online. Generally, when you hook up anything wireless to your router, it comes with a password and login so it is critical that whenever you install any of these Internet of Things devices, you should change the password and login to protect yourself, which leads us to my second concern – routers. A study by security company Avast found that about 80% of Americans do not properly secure their routers, leaving themselves vulnerable to being hacked. Many people still use either default passwords or easily guessed passwords, such as “password” for their routers.
As we connect to the Internet through more and more devices that are a part of the Internet of Things, it becomes increasingly important to be cognizant of maintaining proper security in all devices including, of course, routers and webcams. Laziness can have dire consequences. Never use default logins and passwords. As soon as you install any device that accesses the Internet, make sure that you protect yourself with secure logins and passwords.
It is not difficult to hack into the webcam of a computer from afar. The same types of tricks used to get people to unwittingly download keystroke logging malware that enables the hacker to gather all of the personal information from your computer to be used to make you a victim of identity theft can be used to get you to download the malware that enables the hacker to take control of your webcam. Never click on links in emails or download attachments unless you are absolutely positive they are legitimate. They may be riddled with malware. Also, install and maintain anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer and other electronic devices. For external webcams that are not a built-in component of your computer, a red light will signal that the camera is operating. Be aware of this. It is a good idea to merely disconnect the external webcam when you are not using it or merely take a post-it and cover the webcam’s lens whenever you are not using it. Recently a photograph taken in 2015 was made public showing Pope Francis using his iPad with a sticker over the built in web camera. This simple technique is also used by Mark Zuckerberg, FBI Director James Comey and me. It is a simple and easy solution. For built in webcams, they too will generally have a blue light to indicate that it is operating, however, again, it is a good idea to merely cover the lens when you are not using it.