Getting your webcam hijacked means somebody else is accessing your webcam and turning it on without your knowledge. Aside from becoming a spy camera, your webcam's hjacked operation also results to invasion of privacy, as you can be recorded on video or photo in compromised situations. One of the worst cases that may happen is that you find some scandalous photos and videos of you online.
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Check your camera's power or recording light. If you are not using the webcam and the light is turned on, this means that it is being used unknowingly by you or by somebody else. Check your computer's settings and any opened webcam or messenger application to see if you unintentionally allowed the webcam to remain on. If you have all the right settings or your personally configured settings suddenly change after a while, your computer is most likely hacked or suffering from a virus attack that may also result to a hijacked webcam.
Check your computer for any change in overall functionality, visual appearance or setting. For instance, if your computer or Internet browser suddenly runs slower than usual even if you did not download a large number of files and you did not install new programs, there is a possibility that your system is hacked or infected by a virus. A Trojan horse infection is one of the most common causes of a hijacked webcam. A change in your Internet browser's home page or any preferences or file information may also suggest that your computer is being hacked.
Run an updated antivirus software and a spyware detection software to check the security of your computer. Aside from viruses, a spyware may be installed without your knowledge. This makes it possible for your computer and its peripherals, such as the webcam, to be accessed without your knowledge.
Close all running applications in your computer or reboot your computer, then check your Task Manager. If you see any running files that are not supposed to be there, especially because you did not open any application, your computer may be hacked and your webcam may possibly be affected. You can search on the names of the running files in the Internet to know more about them. You may also seek professional help if you have a reason to believe that your computer is hacked, has a virus unseen by your antivirus program or a spyware undetected by your spyware program.
Tips and warnings
- For your safety, if you have an external webcam that comes with a modesty shield, use this to cover your webcam when not in use. If your webcam doesn't have this, use any form of cover, such as a piece of cloth, cardboard or paper, to cover your webcam's lens. If you have a built-in webcam in your computer, you can cover it with a piece of paper and tape. Be careful not to place the actual adhesive over the webcam's lens.
- Disconnecting the webcam from the computer and the Internet is also an ideal way to avoid webcam hijacking.
- If you are knowledgeable enough with the software and hardware configurations of your computer and your Internet service, enable your WEP, WPA or other security key to keep hackers from easily attacking your computer. Turn on your firewall and use the highest security encryption possible to significantly lessen the risk of a hacked computer system. You may also call your Internet subscription's customer service to ask for assistance.
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- The Daily Beast; The webcam Sex Crimes; Tim McGirk; June 2010
- Click2Houston.com; Hacker Uses webcam to Spy on Family; May 2004
- Slate; I See You Typing; Christopher Beam; April 2009
- Shoaib Yousuf Blog; How Will I Know if My MSN's Been Hacked?; July 2008
- CNET News; Many Ways to Activate webcams Sans Spy Software; Larry Magid; Feb. 2010