Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - not forgetting the odd Snapchat-sent naked selfie - we’re all sharing far more than we should. But how would you feel if you were being spied on through your smartphone’s camera without even knowing?
Some people would have you believe that hackers not only have the skills to gain access to the cameras found within your smartphone, laptop and tablet, but a terrifying desire to do so too.
Exactly how true is this though? Is it just the ramblings of tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists, or can people really spy on you through your webcam and smartphone camera?
Worryingly, it's time to take the scaremongers seriously. Not only can people spy on you through your webcam, it’s happening far more regularly than you’d realise.
“Webcams may let you stay in touch with friends and family, but they also pose risks of people hacking into them and spying on you,” internet security specialist Norton warned.
Worried? Here’s how you can stop it happening to you.
You know how you’ve always been warned to properly check who’s sent an email before clicking to download attached file? Well now there’s another solid reason to be online safety conscious.
Although there are many ways by which a hacker can gain access to your webcam, the most common is through the use of Trojan horse malware.
This is the practice of hiding malicious code within seemingly innocent files. These are often sent to unsuspecting victims via email and once download give hackers backdoor access to users’ machines without their knowing.
According to Norton: “In China, a sophisticated network of hackers known as GhostNet has cracked 1,295 webcams in 103 countries.”
Although laptops are the most targeted devices, these aren’t the only integrated cameras being used to snoop on you.
Edward Snowdon revealed that the NSA gained backdoor access to cameras within iPhones, Android and BlackBerry devices long ago, and a number of instances of connected security cameras and even baby monitors being hacked have been reported.
WHO’S SPYING ON YOU THROUGH YOUR WEBCAM?
Although hackers are largely to blame, they’re not the only culprits here. Security firms and even schools have been found to spy on users and students using webcams without their knowledge.
Detailing one incident, Norton Security reported: “A recent Pennsylvania lawsuit accused a school district of using webcams on school-issued laptops to spy on students and their families.”
Even if you don’t think your life is interesting enough to be targeted by webcam-hacking wrong-uns, it doesn’t matter.
“We all have to become aware that our every action could be watched,” warned Richard Stiennon, Chief Strategy Officer at Blancco Technology Group.
Further research has shown that it’s extremely unlikely that you’re actually being targeted by anyone you know.
Instead, hackers often thrown their malware nets wide, attempting to fool many, knowing a few will be foolish enough to click the dodgy links.
Why would someone want to gain access to your webcam though?
Well, as well as the obvious, unsavoury voyeurism reasons, hackers have used the captured footage to blackmail users. Others have seen images of themselves popup on the internet, often in varying states of undress.
Right, now you know the risks, it’s time to start being proactive in your protection methods.
First off ensure all of your camera-equipped devices have decent anti-virus installed, this includes computers, tablets and smartphones. This should catch damaging emails and attachments before they cause trouble.
If your computer still has an external webcam - seriously, why haven’t you upgraded yet? - there is a simple solution, just unplug it when not in use.
As much as the internet scoffed at his simplistic prevention method, it’s actually the most effective means of being caught on camera unawares.
“The ultimate security control is to cover the lens,’’ IT security expert, Steven Fox said.
“If your webcam doesn’t come with a lens cover, use an adhesive bandage or even a yellow sticky note to cover it up.”