How should you secure your webcam?

Webcam security is probably something you have never given much thought to. You might have a friend that physically tapes their web cam and think that they are being a bit paranoid, but are they really? Criminals will do anything to make a buck and if they can do that via a webcam do you have any doubt that they would? I read this recent posting on quora that got me thinking about that very question.

It is well established that operating systems and applications of all types are insecure due to the complexity of code and lack of proper security reviews throughout the development and release process. Simply put any vulnerability at the operating system or application layer that grants sufficient privilege to the attacker could lead to the compromise of your web cam. So the possibility definitely exists that someone could compromise your webcam. But to paraphrase a poster on quora what would a hacker gain by doing that? Let’s examine the potential threats

Why would a hacker want to hack a webcam?

Here are just a few possibilities this list is not meant to be exhaustive but just to show you that there is plenty of motivation and potential financial gain by doing so.

  1. To gain access to pictures that can be used for blackmail or financial gain. How much would someone potential pay to keep embarrassing photos out of the public domain? I imagine this could become quite a source of revenue especially if someone in the public eye was the victim of this type of attack. Granted that this is called blackmail and has serious potential legal repercussions but so does hacking and that did not stop the hacker up to this point.
  2. For information to know what is happening in a given location covered by the webcam. This factor comes into play more when a webcam is setup to provide security for a high value location but could also be relevant if a home is particularly pricey or a prime target for physical theft. This one may be of a bit more of a stretch vs. option #1 but is definitely within the realm of possibilities.
  3. To terrorize the person on the other end of the webcam. Lets face it there are some sick and twisted individuals in the world who just like instilling fear in others and causing pain. Imagine the damage they can do if they control your webcam and you have not implemented any kind of security controls over your webcam. 


So what can you do to protect yourself from these webcam security threats?

Suddenly, the person using dark black tape to block their webcam when it is not in use does not seem so paranoid now that we know the evil doers have potential incentive to hack your webcam. I believe a physical security method is the preferred way to deal with this threat especially if you participate in sensitive activities with your webcam. Tape that does not allow the camera to be utilize is a good control here but it is only as effective as your regular usage of it. You must do this every time your webcam is not in use to have effective security.
Another effective method to control webcam security risks is to have a portable web cam vs. a built in one so you can unplug the usb port when it is not in use. If you do not have a built in camera this is the best security option you can employ but once again it is only as effective as your ability to do this every time it is not in use.
There are other important measures you need to take such as keeping your operating systems, internet browsers and other applications like Adobe flash up to date with the most recent versions. This will help minimize the likelihood of your machine being vulnerable to attackers. Minimizing your use of a webcam to situations that would not leave you embarrassed and open to potential blackmail is another important mitigation step that will help protect you even if someone manages to compromise your webcam.
Who would of thought a webcam could have so many security implications?
Help a friend by passing on these useful information security tips
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks