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In 2013, researchers demonstrated that they could activate the webcam on Mac Books without the indicator light turning on, something previously considered impossible.
A former FBI agent confirmed that not only was this possible but that they’d been doing it for years.
In early 2015, a group known as Black Shades was broken up after it was discovered that the software they sold for $40 a pop had been used to give millions of purchasers remote access (including webcam access) to victims computers; that’s hardly a new trick though as old programs like Back Orifice were used in the same fashion back in the 1990s.
It’s Not Just the NSA We want to emphasize the whole “hardly a new trick” bit and the ease with which even marginally skilled malicious users can gain access to your computer.
When everyone from the spooks at the NSA to the kid next door has access to tools that can turn a webcam against its owner then the threat is legitimate.
You should, no questions asked, disable or obscure your computer’s webcam. While antivirus isn’t going to detect all of these things, and won’t detect many of the latest ones that are out there, it will at least help in dealing with the possibility of infection through a link or running the wrong executable. The problem is that if the threat is actually the college kid that offers to help people with their IT problems, they can easily whitelist a trojan so an antivirus won’t detect it. You can’t really trust that little icon that says you are secure. For desktop users with external webcams, the easiest solution is to simply unplug the USB webcam.
It’s the most foolproof way to approach the problem if you have an external webcam, and works regardless of the hardware or operating system.