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Taping over prying eyes of web spies

Ben Grubb (via SMH) | April 3, 2013

 

Many Australian and international IT security experts are using Post-it notes, electrical tape, Band-Aids and even cigarette papers to secure their computer web cameras from hackers.

The phenomenon was discovered after security experts were asked a simple question that arose after publishing a story about unsuspecting victims who become "RATted" by hackers who use Remote Administration Tools, or "RATs", to spy on them.

In many cases hackers who use RATs can switch on a victim's web camera or microphone after infecting them.

 

Martin.

 

Founder of spying software FinSpy and FinFisher Martin Muench with paper over his camera. Photo: Bloomberg/Fairfax

 

The question asked was whether the experts concealed their webcam when it was not in use.

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Although many web cameras offer a telltale LED light which indicates whether it is active, Fairfax found many security experts didn't trust that it would operate correctly if a hacker compromised their machine. After all, hackers have found ways to disable some webcam lights.

A number of manufacturers, like Apple in their MacBooks and iMacs, ensure that the web camera is hard-wired in such a way that the green LED will always turn on regardless of any software changes. But some manufacturers don't make use of a light at all, or when they do they are very lax with how it is implemented, allowing for it to be easily turned off by software.

F-Secure's chief research officer Mikko Hypponen sent Fairfax this picture of his web camera.

F-Secure's Mikko Hypponen sent Fairfax this picture of his web camera. Photo: Mikko Hypponen

Matt Tett, managing director of Enex TestLab, which is hired by governments and businesses to test their IT systems, told Fairfax he used a Post-it note to secure his web camera.

"It's just a logical thing that paranoid people do, right?" Mr Tett said.

"I've seen a few people do it," he added.

Information security analyst and Risky.biz podcaster Patrick Gray also admitted to covering up his laptop's camera. When he smoked, he used the glued part of a cigarette paper to protect it.

 

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