• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Web cameras on laptops may pose privacy risk

August 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
An estimated 170,000 people use laptop computers worldwide. These days, the majority of those laptops have built-in web cameras. You may have never used yours, but chances are - it's there.

"You don't even have to look for it as a special feature anymore. It just comes with the computer," said Dan Ackerman with CNET.

"With the web cam comes the opportunity for people to use malicious software to control the web cam," said Justin Vellese with the FBI.

Back up for a second and think about where you use your laptop - maybe in your hotel room on vacation or in bed while you work at night.

"Many laptops now have 3G or wireless capabilities built into them, so being portable they can be used anywhere and can be put in places that are private, places that people might not want to be seen," said Vellese.

Right now, imagine someone tapping into that web cam to watch you.

"There is malicious software that can turn on the web cam - turn it off. It's possible they can even turn off the light that indicates the web cam is on," said Vellese.

With the light off, you have no idea someone is watching. It's happening everywhere all over the world, and it's a crime that is growing, according to the FBI.

"It can grow exponentially, given the fact that this malware is something that is readily available on the Internet to somebody with a limited amount of education. They don't have to be a computer programmer," said Vellese.

A quick search on Google will reveal all kinds of information for criminals looking to hack a web cam. It's not just your computers that are at risk, but any web cam, including security cameras and daycare cameras.

So what can you do? To start, make sure your wireless router has the security key enabled. Look into spyware detection programs.

"Make sure your firewall is turned on at all times and you have your anti-virus, anti-malware apps running constantly," advised Ackerman.

A simple solution could also help.

"If you're not using the camera you can either disable it by simply putting a Post-it over it, or if it's plugged in via USB, unplugging it," said Vellese.

The FBI considers the crime cyber terrorism. If it happens to you, they advise getting help fast because odds are you are not the only victim.


Load Comments