When former FBI Director James Comey was asked “Do you put tape over your laptop camera?”
His answer was telling “heck yeah. heck yeah”
Comey is not the only high profile expert who takes personal device security seriously. Matthew Green, encryption expert at Johns Hopkins University recently told Yadron the reason he doesn’t cover his camera is:
“Because I’m an idiot, .. I have no excuse for not taking this seriously … but at the end of the day, I figure that seeing me naked would be punishment enough.”
With millions of us accepting technology into the most intimate elements of our lives, carrying around cameras and microphones in our pockets everyday, privacy has taken a back seat and has made us vulnerable as we are prompted to share more and more of our daily lives on social media.
This apathy toward privacy is dangerous. Webcams, laptop microphones and smartphone cameras can be remotely turned on. That’s why ordinary laptops and smartphones aren’t allowed into the U.S. government’s SCIFs, or sensitive compartment information facilities where classified information is presented and discussed.
And there have been occasions where hackers have been exposed for watching people through their device. In 2013, ninety people were arrested for using ‘creepware’ – a software which hacked 150 women including Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf’s laptop cameras. Spying, recording and subsequently blackmailing the victims with compromising video footage accumulated over a year.
Can the same happen on our smartphone? When an app wants to access your camera and microphone – how many of us know the extent to which we are giving an application permission to access our device?
This all sounds awfully paranoid and dramatic. Tod Beardsley, research director at Rapid7 told The Verge that these bugs are rare and far between but there are a few things to watch out for:
“These vulnerabilities usually show up in Flash or Java.. anything that wants you to click in a very specific place in your browser would be very suspect.”
When it comes to desktop applications, there are simple measures that can be taken to remain secure, like simply putting tape over your webcam. But when it comes to smartphones – the devices we give most access to our lives – what do we do?
Hope for the best.
For more, check out this video from The Verge:
Should you put tape over your webcam? pic.twitter.com/KM5y4E3PWj
— The Verge (@verge) October 29, 2017