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OPLIN 4cast #509: Blinders on the webcams

Posted in 4cast

It was supposed to be a speech at Kenyon College about encryption and privacy by FBI Director James Comey, but what caught everyone’s attention was his remark in the question and answer session afterward when he admitted he puts tape over his webcam. A few weeks later, it was supposed to be a celebration of Instagram reaching 500 million users in a month, but the picture Mark Zuckerberg posted had everyone talking instead about the piece of tape over the webcam of his laptop in the background. Is this some sort of contagious paranoia? Or do these apparently rational people know something we should know?

  • Paranoid or prudent: Should you tape over your webcam? (Cameras Reviewed | Ethan Wolff-Mann)  “Clickjacking is one of the simplest ways hackers can seize power over a webcam. When a user sees a button that appears to close an ad, it can be assumed that they’ll click on it. Knowing this, clickjackers create an invisible button over that area, connected to a script that activates the camera. You know how your browser asks if it can have permission to use your webcam and audio? Well, imagine that dialog screen is invisible and the ‘yes’ button is placed directly over the spot you’d click.”
  • FBI Director — You should cover your webcam with tape (The Hacker News | Mohit Kumar)  “Leaks revealed the NSA’s Optic Nerve operation that was carried out to capture webcam images every 5 minutes from random Yahoo users, and in just six months, images of 1.8 Million users were captured and stored on the government servers in 2008. However, putting a tape over the lens of your computer’s webcam would not solve the problem, especially in this era when we are surrounded by so many Internet-connected devices that are a security nightmare. Due to the insecure implementation, these Internet-connected or Internet of Things (IoTs) devices, including Security Cameras, are so vulnerable that hackers are routinely hijacking them and using them as weapons in cyber attacks. So, it is far more easy for hackers to hack your security cameras, instead of your laptop’s webcam, to keep track on you and your environment.”
  • The FBI Director puts tape over his webcam, should you? (OS X Daliy | Paul Horowitz)  “So, the obvious question is, should you tape over your webcam? The answer likely depends on a variety of things; how concerned you are about a potential issue impacting you, your line of work, and what operating system software you use. If you are on an ancient Windows PC that hasn’t updated system software in 10 years and has installed every dodgy piece of junkware that comes your way and you see the webcam light flicker on and off constantly, then yes you may want to consider slapping some tape on the webcam to prevent someone snapping pictures of you with[out] your knowledge.”
  • Mark Zuckerberg tapes over his webcam. Should you? (The Guardian | Alex Hern)  “Even experts who don’t cover their cameras think they should. Why doesn’t Matthew Green, an encryption expert at Johns Hopkins University? ‘Because I’m an idiot,’ he told [the Guardian’s Danny] Yadron. ‘I have no excuse for not taking this seriously … but at the end of the day, I figure that seeing me naked would be punishment enough.’”

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