At a meeting about privacy issues, held at Kenyon College, the FBI Director James Comey explained that he alleviates the danger of an unwanted secret surveillance by taping the web camera of his laptop. His exact words were that he only followed the example of someone wiser, who had thought of that earlier and was shown doing that on the news:
“If somebody way smarter than me uses tape to prevent surveillance crimes, shouldn’t I do that as well?”, asked Comey.
This part of his speech has been thoroughly criticized because of the recent FBI demands that each software company should give the federal government access to its devices and data bases. Many find his advice to the ordinary people contradictory to the official policy of FBI, and even somehow hypocritical.
However, despite the probable hypocrisy and the reasons given above, should we really do that in order to stop a possible privacy invasion? Is putting a piece of tape on a laptop webcam enough to stop a hacker or to prevent the effects of a malware? Or is it just another paranoid unreasonable action?
“For sure, if someone had the intention to integrate malware in a computer system through phishing or a different cyber intrusion technique, to take control of a laptop camera might be completely possible,” points out David Szuchman, the Chief of Investigation Division, Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
“However, to put tape over the webcam is an extreme prophylactic measure that may not be what the majority of the population needs to do, but is said to be effective in stopping secret and illegitimate surveillance.”
The former Navy SEAL and founder of SOFREP.com Brandon Webb fully agrees that everyone should develop certain habits when it comes to cyber security. According to some of his friends in the intelligence community and some who work undercover, our laptops and smart phones are prone to the harmful activities of hackers. It happens mainly when we use Wi-Fi networks and when we travel to somewhere.
The founder and president of Cyber Risk Opportunities Kip Boyle claims that there are real risks, no matter whether the people involved are just young and curious or adept at online crime. Everyone may use any number of the Remote Administration Tools (RAT’s) in order to perform illegal surveillance using one’s webcam.
According to Boyle, the first move of the hackers is to tempt someone into downloading the RAT. Most commonly, they use malicious URLS for this purpose. After that they connect the RAT to the victim’s computer and start using the webcam secretly. Boyle explains that everyone should be very careful because once they have caught a RAT, practically, there are no limits to the extent of damage that can be caused to their system.