Before the spring of 2020, you may not have used a webcam often. Now, a lot more of us are using them in our everyday lives, primarily because we’re working from home due to coronavirus.
You may use your webcam for meetings and trainings, and other professional interactions that you’re not doing in person right now.
Due to the rapid shift to remote work at many companies around the country and the world, there has been increasing scrutiny on cybersecurity best practices, including network attacks like hacking webcams.
While remote work wasn’t new, it was on such a large scale as what we see now.
Even if you don’t use your webcam for work, you may be using it to keep up with friends and family in the era of social distancing, so you should think about securing it as well.
The following are important things to know about webcam security.
The Risks of Webcams
Webcam hacking is a very real risk, and it seems to be on the rise since more people are working from home and they’re more actively using their webcams.
Recently, the U.S. government charged a man in Ohio for 13 years of cybertheft. The allegation was that he used malware to steal personal data from thousands, and he also took over cameras and microphones to record audio and images.
Anytime you click something or download it online, which can include malware, it can provide a hacker with access to everything on your device.
Sometimes, hackers can target webcams by sending out phishing emails, and then when you click the link in the email, the software installs on your device, giving them complete access.
In the past, you might be tipped off that someone was watching you on your webcam because a green light would be on, but now, hackers can turn off the light, and you don’t have any way of knowing what they’re doing.
If you notice files moved around on your computer or programs that you didn’t open being opened, then it could be a red flag that a hacker has gained access to your device.
Overall, it’s much easier to take the necessary steps to prevent hacking as opposed to trying to fix the problem once it’s already occurred.
The following are things you can do to protect yourself and preventatively deal with a potential webcam hack.
Cover Up Your Webcam
Tech professionals and people well-versed in cybersecurity will tell you to cover up your webcam when you aren’t using it.
Don’t cover it with tape, because it can leave residue behind.
Instead, there are inexpensive little covers you can buy just for this purpose.
Some laptops also have a kill switch for webcams so you can physically disable yours when you aren’t using it.
If you have an external webcam that plugs into your computer via your USB port, only connect it when you’re using it.
Check for Software Updates
One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself when it comes to cybersecurity is to update all of your software and apps. This is something we neglect to do, but when your software is updated then it patches potential vulnerabilities that could provide access to your device.
If you have a Mac device, you can go to the Apple menu and choose system preferences. Then, choose Software Update, and it will tell you if there are any available updates.
Click Update Now to install everything available.
You can also choose “Automatically Keep My Mac Up To Date” to make sure in the future updates are downloaded automatically.
If you have a PC, you can go to Settings and then choose Update & Security.
Choose Windows Update, then Change Active Hours. You can set your preferred start and end times for updates and save your changes.
Use a Firewall
You should have a firewall on your device, even if you don’t work from it. It’s important to protect you in general when it comes to cybersecurity.
Your firewall is your network security system.
A firewall monitors traffic to and from your network and can potentially keep threats out.
Use Secure Wi-Fi
Having secure wi-fi is something businesses need to emphasize to employees right now because it’s one of the main ways to protect against hackers.
If you’re working from home, hackers can target your home wireless router to get access to your network.
If you work from somewhere like a coffee shop using public wi-fi, you’re at even more of a risk.
When a hacker targets your Wi-fi, they can access not only work data and information but also your webcam, bank accounts, and emails.
To secure your home Wi-Fi, create a name and password in your router, which is in Security Settings. You can then choose a type of encryption you want to use.
Whatever is most recently available is the most secure form of encryption.
What may be best from a security standpoint is getting a virtual private network or VPN.
A VPN adds another layer of security on top of security software.
A VPN creates a private network that’s secured from any internet connection you use. That includes public Wi-Fi and your home Wi-Fi. With a VPN, the data you send and receive is protected.
Avoid Suspicious Links
Cybercriminals as has been touched on can gain access to your device, including your webcam by having you inadvertently install malware.
Malware can be installed when you click on a link you receive in an email or download files.
It’s one of the most frequently used routes hackers use.
Never download something from someone you don’t know, and even if you do know the sender, verify they actually sent it.
Finally, if you need to have your computer repaired, ensure that you trust the person doing your work, and the same is true of remote support. Always password protect all of your personal data before anyone works on your computer, and change your password to your system again after the work is complete.