Avoid webcam hacking: tips to protect your privacy
Jonathan Zettel, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, August 17, 2013 8:49AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, August 17, 2013 11:48AM EDT
Strangers are breaking into homes, and it is not by breaking down the door.
Almost every home computer has a webcam that can be hacked and controlled by a total stranger, gaining virtual access to your home.
Andy Walker, tech expert and author from cyberwalker.com, says that although webcam hacking is not very common, it does not require much sophistication.
"Any kid who has any knowledge of setting up a home network can do it," Walker said in a phone interview. "Technology has been designed to be very, very easy to use these days and we have been lulled into a false sense of security."
The most recent - and incredibly creepy - example of this came out of Houston, TX, where a family was using a webcam to monitor their baby's room.
The family router was hacked and the hacker took control of the webcam and was able to speak directly into the baby's room. The hacker used obscenities and even used the child's name after seeing it written over the bed.
Walker says that hackers can even turn off the webcam's activity light, leaving no physical evidence that a camera is being operated, but he adds that most attacks are not malicious in nature and usually carried out by "kids just messing around."
Walker says consumers can take a few simple steps to protect themselves from this sort of attack.
The first step is to turn on security features during the installation process. Most new products generally come with security features turned off by default.
Follow the instructions, and make sure you set up a good password at least eight characters long with a mix of symbols and upper and lower case letters.
According to Walker, keeping your software and operating system up-to-date is very important. In the tech world second- or third-generation products are often more secure, he said.
"Any new product out on the market place … is going to have innate flaws in it so expect any malicious person to get into it if they want to," Walker said.
It is also important to make sure that you have working and up-to-date anti-virus and firewall programs.
"I could pretty much walk around the city and hack into one in ten home networks right now," Walker said. "Most people are in a hurry, they don't understand technology, they think they are fine, they think they are not vulnerable and they are -- the reality is they are."
And if after you have a secure network and you are still paranoid of outside peeping toms, the solution can be as easy as covering the lens with a Post-it note.
"The reality is if you don't want a camera to look at you, either get out of its line of sight or put something over the lens," Walker said.