On Your Side
Someone may be watching you on your webcam, and you don't even know it
Courtny Gerrish reports Video by tmj4.comvideo
It's estimated 170-million people use laptop computers worldwide. These days, the majority of those laptops have built-in web cameras. You may have never used yours, but odds are it's there, Dan Ackerman from CNET says. "You don't even have to look for it as a special feature anymore. It just comes with the computer."
FBI Spokesman Justin Vellese says, "With the webcam comes the opportunity for people to use malicious software to control the webcam."
You heard right -- control your webcam. Let's back up for a second and think about where your laptop is used. 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," Vellese explains.
Now, imagine someone tapping into that web camera to watch you. Here are some worried responses from people:
"They're hacking in… remotely…into your computer, and able to watch you?"
"That makes me a little bit nervous actually."
"That's a major security issue."
Well, it's happening. "There is malicious software that can turn on the webcam. Turn it off. It's possible they can even turn off the light that indicates the webcam is on," Vellese says.
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 readily available on the Internet to somebody with a limited amount of education. They don't have to be a computer programmer," says Vellese.
A quick search on Google will reveal all kinds of information for criminals looking to hack a webcam. Not just your computer's, but any webcam, from security cameras to daycare cams. YouTube videos give them a step-by-step how to. So what can you do?
"Make sure your firewall is turned on at all times and you have your Anti-virus, anti-malware apps running constantly," Ackerman suggests.
Vellese assures 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."
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.
The FBI also says us young women are the most targeted for this kind of crime. Parents should keep computers in open areas of the home and have a conversation with their children about what they should do if someone contacts them saying they've been watching.