How to tell if someone has hacked your laptop camera
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Have you ever got a crazy feeling that someone could be watching you while seated on your laptop doing what you do best? Well, probably you may be paranoid, but there’re high chances that the camera of your computer has been hacked. Scary right?
A laptop camera is one of the significant computer accessories that you can use in various ways. However, it also poses the most serious threat to your privacy invasion. If someone gets control of your laptop camera, it can be used to spy on you, with the consequences well documented.
Some experts have gone as far as to argue that users have probably already lost the war on privacy.
However, nothing is lost yet, as all you have to do is to upgrade your security protocols. Primarily, you need to install a quality VPN such as ExpressVPN and use some common sense to protect your privacy.
Therefore, if you must be worried that someone is spying your cell phone or laptop webcam, then you’re not alone.
Interestingly, only a few years back Mark Zuckerberg was pictured while covering his laptop camera with some piece of tape.
Now, imagine the boss of the giant tech firm like Facebook, with probably the best tech support to back him up worried about webcam hackers. That tells it’s something that you need to cautious about, at the very best.
6 Signs to tell if your webcam has been hacked
So how can you tell that your laptop camera has been hacked? Here are some of the signs you should look for;
1. Storage Files
Unfortunately, most people are unaware as to where the files from the camera are stored on the hard drive.
Therefore, you need to check that folder in the settings of the webcam, and if you realize that some of the files there are the ones you never recorded, then probably you’ve been hacked.
2. Check the laptop camera light
One of the easiest (and cheapest as it doesn’t require you to invest in any software) ways to tell that your camera is under attack is by observing the camera indicator light.
Under normal circumstances, the indicator light only turns on when the camera gets activated.
However, if the light turns on during odd times, most probably when you’re not using the camera, then it should be a tell-tale sign that you’re under watch, and someone is spying on you using your laptop camera.
When that happens, quickly check the active apps in the background and check if any of them is responsible for turning the webcam on.
Mostly, no legitimate app should authorize such action without your permission, and hence it should be enough reason to delete the suspicious app.
3. Scan your computer for malicious apps
Another way that you can detect spyware on your laptop is running a regular scan for malware.
Several top malware scanners are available to help you such as Norton or TotalAV that are able to catch all the instances of malware in your device that can spy on you.
That way, you’ll be able to detect any type of spyware present in your PC.
4. Examine browser extensions
Does your camera light turn on when you open your browser? Something could be wrong with your browser extension, and it needs to be fixed (and also, consider switching to a secure web browser).
You need to reboot your laptop and then launch the browser. Then you can start deactivating your extensions one by one while you reboot and launch until you can identify the culprit.
5. Is your webcam process running?
Another easy way to see if someone has hacked your laptop cam is to examine your webcam utility. Proceed to your Task Manager and check all the currently running programs in the Processes tab.
If you find it, you don’t have to panic as it could be a default setting. Therefore, you need to test by restarting the computer and again checking the webcam utility if it has automatically started.
Also, you need to check your webcam security settings and examine whether they have been altered.
6. Check how your internet data flows
Your network’s data flow can be a good indicator of how much data you use for an online session.
When you see sudden spikes on the network traffic, then it could mean the data is being used without you knowing it.
Keep an eye on the internet data you use, which is easy to do as most of the ISPs provide you with a dashboard that shows the data used.
If you see any unusual or unexpected spike, it could be because of the fact that your webcam is spying on you and sending data back to the hackers.
How to avoid webcam spying
If you haven’t recognized any of the signs, it doesn’t mean that you’re a ghost and not vulnerable.
Webcam attacks are prevalent, and you can fall victim to them at any given time. Thankfully, there are a plethora of protective measures to keep you safe, and they include;
Install a quality antivirus
Most cyber-attacks and hacking attempts involve spyware, Trojan, malware, or virus infection.
Therefore, you should ensure that you install dependable antivirus protection (AVG, Kaspersky, and Norton are our top recommendations).
Just like the name suggests, a firewall acts as a wall helping to guard your device, watching network traffic as well as preventing dubious connections.
Ensure that the default firewall system of your operating system is not only on, but it also works. Besides, you may consider trying some free third-party firewall software as they tend to provide added security.
Secure your WiFi networks
One of the common (and cheapest as it doesn’t cost them much resources) routes that most hackers use to gain access to your device is through public WiFi networks.
Some even go as far as opening hotspots to lure users into a trap and slide in malware to their system. To keep yourself safe whenever on WiFi networks, always use a VPN to protect yourself from unwanted snoopers.
Cover your webcam
Yes, tape it! Just like Zuckerberg, the easiest and reliable means to prevent a hacker from watching you via your laptop camera is covering it.
Also, you can opt for a dedicated webcam cover (you will find many good ones on Amazon and eBay) or if you are in the US, you can get webcam stickers that EFF (The Electronic Frontier Foundation) sells.
I recommend EFF stickers because our site PrivacySavvy.com is a supporter of it as this non-profit organization is fighting for the digital rights of users at the very best.
So, by purchasing their stickers, not only will you be able to cover your webcam but also support a good movement.
Be observant and never fall into a phishing trap
Some hackers may want to act smart and pretend to be support agents trying to help with your system’s problem that requires examination. That’s a trap, don’t buy it. They could be trying to maneuver their way into your device to introduce malware.
Moreover, others may go the extra mile to send malicious links or data through emails that once you click, you give them permission to access your device and camera. Therefore, you should be observant and be smart on what link you click in your emails or anywhere online.
That’s it. You just learned how to upset hackers or any third-party looking to spy on your laptop webcam. Well done.
Notably, personal information is slowly growing in demand, and unfortunately, cybercriminals and hackers have not gone to sleep yet.
They’re constantly looking for targets that they can exploit, and your laptop camera is one of the easiest ones. So, keep up your game, and stay secure.
About the author
Experienced in web journalism and marketing, Ali Raza holds a master's degree in finance and enjoys writing about cryptocurrencies and fintech. He is very passionate about the internet privacy. Ali's work has been published in several valuable publications.