Webcams are everywhere: in our laptops, in our security systems, and in our smartphones, which are our constant companions. But even in the most secure systems, webcam security is all too often ignored, leaving most webcams vulnerable to hacking attacks. Learn how to detect that your webcam has been hacked and find out how to improve your webcam security and protect your privacy.
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Can your webcam be hacked?
Thanks to webcams, we can stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues who live on the other side of the world. However, we can also be spied on by hackers via our webcams. Any webcam, including the camera in your laptop or smartphone can be hacked and misused for webcam spying. When using a private network, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking you’re safe from hackers, but without additional security precautions, you can still fall victim to webcam hackers.
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How can a webcam be hacked?
Hackers can gain access to a webcam using malicious software (malware). Various types of malware allow hackers to remotely activate your webcam and compromise your webcam privacy. Below is an overview of the most common causes that lead to inadvertently infecting one’s device with malware that then enables webcam hacking.
Clicking on malicious links
Clicking on dangerous links or downloading untrusted content can lead to your device being infected with malware – this includes Trojans pretending to be legitimate software programs. Before clicking on a link, make sure that it points to a reputable website and that the URL does not contain any suspicious letter or number combinations. To do this, hover your mouse over the link before clicking it and check the destination URL that appears. It is also recommended that you use a proven antivirus program to prevent malware from infecting your device.
Remote technical support
Third-party remote technical support services are useful, but among them there are also Many scammers and hackers who shamelessly exploit the access you’ve given them to your device. Remotely, imposters posing as technical support staff can potentially leave malware on your computer without your knowledge. Before subscribing to the services of a technical support provider, check it thoroughly. Alternatively, you can take your device to a local certified professional’s retail store.
Outdated software programs, including software programs to control webcams, are independent of which device you use, Vulnerable to hacker attacks. Those vulnerabilities that may have been plugged using updates are still vulnerable in older versions. The older the software, the more likely it is that someone has already found a way to hack it by exploiting the existing vulnerabilities. By the way, this applies to smartphones, laptops and desktop PCs alike.
The dangers posed by hacking webcams
Hacking attacks pose a threat to your device, but Webcam hacking poses a number of unique risks. Hackers can abuse your webcam to spy on you in your most intimate moments. Cybercriminals can also abuse a hacked webcam as a gateway to spread more malware, possibly even getting your personal data and financial information. If you don’t use a purpose-built security solution, hackers can easily compromise your webcam and infiltrate your device for spying purposes or to spread viruses.
Since we sometimes keep our webcam-equipped devices in the most intimate places of the house or apartment, hackers can take compromising photos of us or at least claim that they have done so. Regardless of whether they have taken such photos or not, many cyber criminals try to extort your victims in order to obtain money or personal information.
How often are webcams hacked?
Webcams are hacked more often than you may think, especially since they are really easy to hack. Even would-be hackers need do nothing more than run a simple Google search query to learn how to hack a webcam. Many victims may not even realize that their webcam has been hacked.
According to a recent study conducted by WizCase more than 15.000 Webcams of various devices with various software programs not secured and therefore vulnerable to hacker attacks. Many of these webcams were located in private homes, so cybercriminals will have an easy time infiltrating other people’s smart home networks and spying on them in the most intimate of places. So webcams that don’t come with proper security protocols are at risk no matter what.
How to recognize that your webcam has been hacked?
Check if the LED indicator next to the webcam is lit: If the LED lights up even when you are not using your webcam? This could be a sign that your webcam has been hacked. Alternatively, there could be a connection with a browser extension.
Check your apps and browser extensions, disable them one by one to track down the potential culprit.
Then check if the webcam process is running – if yes, restart your device to check if your webcam is activated automatically. Any sign of unauthorized use could indicate that your webcam has been hacked.
If the process is not executed, try to activate the webcam manually. If you do so, you will receive an error message that the webcam is already in use? The LED light is not a reliable indicator of a running webcam, so you should not rely on it – these lights can be configured not to light up even when the webcam is in use. Many hackers will make the appropriate configuration.
Search for saved audio and video recordings in the folder of your webcam. If you find audio and video material there that you did not record yourself, it is quite possible that your webcam has been hacked.
use a tool like Avast Hack Check to determine if your email address or any of the other accounts you use have been compromised in the wake of a data leak. A hacker who has your credentials can sneak into your personal accounts and/or devices.
What to do if you become a victim of a webcam hacking attack?
If there are signs on your device that your webcam has been hacked, don’t be afraid – you can immediately take several measures to lock out hackers and prevent future security breaches.
Unplug or disable your webcam
The first and easiest step is Disconnect the webcam and the device. For external devices, simply unplug them. Internal webcams must be disabled. To do that, you need to check your device’s settings, turn off your camera, and deny every single app access to your webcam.
Change your passwords
Even the strongest password is useless if your webcam has already been hacked. Nevertheless, strong passwords represent an essential preventive measure. If your webcam offers password protection, you should enable this option and choose a strong password that is difficult for potential hackers to guess. Then change the password of your device, because its security may also be compromised. Use a password generator like Avast’s Random Password Generator to create a strong password that will better protect you from hackers in the future.
Protect yourself against webcam hackers
Even if you have password protected your webcam, hackers may still be able to gain access to it. You can still protect your webcam against hacker attacks. Check out these tips to learn how to secure your webcam with even more effective security measures.
Update your webcam software
Bring the webcam manufacturers constantly receive new software updates for their products out to Better protect your customers and their privacy. The improved protection of your webcam privacy you get in the wake of software updates is definitely worth the few minutes it takes to install them – especially when you weigh that time against the risks of using a device with outdated software.
Don’t click on suspicious links and downloads
This should be a no-brainer, but we see people making this mistake all the time. It can happen to any of us that we get careless while combing through our email inbox or scrolling through the news feed. If you come across a strange email or link where something doesn’t seem right, you should never click on. Stay suspicious – because this is the best prevention against phishing and other attacks from the Internet. A strong security software like Avast Free Antivirus makes it easier for you because it automatically detects and blocks malware and suspicious links.
Use a VPN
Public Wi-Fi networks and other unsecured networks are particularly vulnerable to hacker attacks. If you find yourself in a situation where you have no choice but to resort to a public Wi-Fi network, be sure to use a VPN to secure your device. Set up a VPN on your device to hide your IP address from hackers and encrypt your traffic to prevent spying attempts. Download a VPN like Avast SecureLine VPN to your device to ensure your anonymity and privacy at all times when connected to the Internet.
Keep your security software up to date
In addition to your webcam and system software, keep your Always keep security software up to date. Only the latest version of your security software is optimally equipped against hackers and the malware they can potentially use against you. If you use Avast, your antivirus software will be updated automatically.
Use webcam protection (included in Avast Premium Security)
Manually securing a webcam requires a high level of continuous vigilance, and that can be exhausting. However, this does not change the fact that it is extremely important to maintain your own privacy and thus provide for your own peace of mind. The webcam protection in Avast Premium Security secures your webcam comprehensively and automatically and immediately detects and blocks attempted hacker attacks – you don’t have to do anything but enable the feature and let it do its work.
Avast Premium Security provides you with comprehensive online protection and prevents untrusted applications from accessing your webcam, so your devices and data remain fully protected.