February 19, 2015

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Protect Your Privacy With These Webcam Security Tips

“The Internet of Things,” a trending topic these days, refers to the many devices in our lives that are connected to a digital network. While it’s a cool concept, the Internet of Things can leave you susceptible to cyberattack. Webcams offer a prime example — which is why you should take certain security measures aimed at protecting your privacy.

According to a recent Huffington Post article, more than 73,000 unsecured webcams and surveillance cameras are viewable on a Russian-based website called Insecam. In 2010, FBI agents arrested a hacker accused of using 100+ webcams in California to blackmail young women and teenage girls. He managed to creep into their computers through malware on peer-to-peer networks, embedding viruses into files disguised as popular songs.

Stories like those might leave you tempted to handle webcam security by simply throwing the devices away. But protecting your privacy and preventing webcam hacking just requires an extra level of diligence. Tactics such as the below will help protect not only your webcams, but also your baby monitors, smart home systems and more:

  • Password-protect your Wi-Fi and make sure to use passwords that are nearly impossible to guess. With the unsecured webcams transmitting feeds through the Russian site, all of the victims ignored safety protocols and installed cameras with default logins and passwords like “admin” or “password.” Stay smart about creating strong passwords, and make sure that your password isn’t on the  “Worst Passwords of 2014” list.
  • Avoid opening email attachments from unknown sources. Even if you’re employing tough passwords for protecting your privacy, a hacker may still be able to get into your system and circumvent your webcam security through email-delivered malware.
  • Keep your virus protection updated. Security experts and researchers are always finding ways to thwart attackers, but their insights won’t help if you skip security updates. Make sure your virus software has the latest security patches — setting up automatic updates is usually a smart move.
  • Tape over the lens or go unplugged. If your passwords are in place for protecting your identity, your virus updates are done and you’re diligent about avoiding email that may launch malware, you can probably consider yourself well protected from webcam hacking. But when it comes to webcam security, some people like to take the extra step of putting a small piece of black electrical tape over the camera (if it’s part of a laptop) or unplugging the device (if it’s USB).

Like any device that’s part of the Internet of Things, webcams can be handy tools for communication, entertainment and business. Just make sure they’re not handy for hackers, too.

By the way, for more on security in the Internet of Things era, check out our previous blog posts on baby monitors and wearable devices like fitness trackers.

Image (cropped) courtesy of Flickr user Hannaford.

Melanie Medina

Sr. Director of Digital Marketing at IdentityForce
Melanie is a native of Bolivia who has lived in Boston for over 10 years. She likes to make time to travel, jog, read, and play backgammon. Fueled by copious amounts of coffee, Melanie stays on top of her to-do list while also keeping abreast of identity theft issues. Serious data breaches are happening all the time in the U.S. and Melanie loves being part of a solution that brings peace of mind to families across the country.

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