Paranoid about privacy or one smart cookie?
Earlier this week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg proudly released a photograph to celebrate that Instagram (owned by Facebook) now has over 500 million users every month.
However, it wasn’t the momentous milestone that set the internet blazing. Instead, Zuckerberg’s unusual choice of MacBook modifications were what made the photo go viral. Twitter user Chris Olson was quick to notice that Mark Zuckerberg’s webcam had been covered over with black tape. The same was possibly also true of the headphone jack although that was harder to determine due to the angle of the photograph.
3 things about this photo of Zuck:
Camera covered with tape
Mic jack covered with tape
Email client is Thunderbird pic.twitter.com/vdQlF7RjQt
— Chris Olson (@topherolson) June 21, 2016
Why has Mark Zuckerberg taped over his webcam?
Placing thick, opaque tape over a webcam is considered to be good practice to protect your privacy in the event that the camera is hacked. Should any third party take over the camera, they won’t actually be able to see anything – just a black screen.
Zuckerberg may be feeling slightly sore following his Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts being hacked earlier this month. [As an aside – you should learn from Zuckerberg’s mistake and not use the same password for multiple websites.] Perhaps this has led him to perform a bit of a security audit on not only his social media accounts but also his computer hardware.
Is taping your webcam a good way to protect against hackers?
As effective as it may be for privacy protection, you have to admit, sticking a load of tape on your computer is a pretty ugly solution. Not to mention the potential damage to your precious MacBook (or laptop) when you peel it off because, well, you actually need to use the camera. Who’ll want to have a chat with you on Skype if you’ve got sticky tape residue all over the camera?
Specialized laptop camera covers such as CAMBAID are a much more elegant way to protect yourself from camera hacks. They are paper thin and slide over the camera lens with ease. CAMBAID covers are fully reusable: you can take them off to use the camera and then reapply afterwards. Best of all – they’re available to purchase for only $9CAD!
How do hackers take control of a laptop camera?
There are several different ways in which hackers can access a webcam or in-build computer camera. For example, they might send out malicious email campaigns that contain malware programs as file attachments. When the unsuspecting recipient opens the file, they unwittingly install the software on their computer. This software can then run in the background, secretly operating the camera – all without your knowledge!
The same malware can also be packaged up into internet file downloads. When you install a program or open a file that you’ve just downloaded, the malware gets loaded too.
To protect yourself against malware, make sure your computer is running up-to-date anti-virus software. It’s also a good idea to virus check all files that you download from the internet or receive in an email before you open them, just to make sure they are clean.
Why would hackers want access to your webcam?
You might be wondering why cybercriminals and hackers would bother remotely accessing your computer’s camera. Unfortunately, the reasons might shock you.
Accessing the camera of a laptop that’s been left in a compromising position in a room, house or business address could give them the following information:
- Details of any valuables that might be worth stealing
- If the property is currently empty (and therefore susceptible to theft)
- Regular days or times that the property is left empty for long periods of time
- The identities of people in the room (facial recognition can be used)
- Access to potentially sensitive information (particularly if they also manage to hijack your computer’s audio system)
Of course, there’s also the fact that they can record you in your own home or at work, doing – well… anything, really. If you leave your computer on in your bedroom whilst getting undressed, sleeping, eating, socializing – it can be watched, recorded and then uploaded anywhere on the internet.
This is probably Zuckerberg’s biggest concern about his own laptop. As an incredibly influential businessman and celebrity, recorded footage of him could be extremely valuable to the right buyer. The same could be said of any well-known individual. Our world is getting increasingly transfixed by celebrity gossip and tabloid news: one perceived wrong word at the wrong time can go viral in minutes and cause permanent reputation damage. With that in mind, is it any wonder that Zuckerberg has chosen to cover his camera?