As the camera could be remotely hacked and used to spy on you. If you are connected to a network, such as an internet, you are vulnerable. No systems in this world are safe.
There is a website listing worldwide “zombie devices” in form of the internet-connected camera for you to freely access. They are mostly Chinese-made cheap webcams and CCTVs that were not designed and manufactured with security in mind.
Cyber Security team has demonstrated how easy it is to remotely do this, even to an anti-malware & anti-virus protected devices. Some mobile apps are poorly designed, yet are allowed by its users to access the mobile phone’s camera. A hacker can just break through the app, and take control any functionalities accessible and allowed by the user to be used by the app, such as viewing your phone books, make a phone call, send SMS, post-Facebook messages, and so on.
If you are high profile figure, high risk individual, you may feel the need to protect yourself from such privacy breach risk. But if you are just Joe or Sally Nobody, then the hacker may gain nothing out of it and couldn’t do much to inflict greater harm upon you.
Is it just paranoia?
Well, we mostly saw it from Mark Zuckerberg’s photo back then. In the photograph, we can clearly see his laptop’s webcam being taped. Then suddenly, the whole world followed suit, so they can “act like smart, famous, rich, and important” guy.
Do all of us need it? – It depends. Who are you? What are you?
The cybersecurity guy offered a much more measured reaction: he left his built-in webcam as it is. Does that mean he is unaware of the vulnerability issue? Nope, he is one of the experts who understand it far better than the majority of many other people.
So, there is indeed a legitimate underlying concern regarding the fad, but some people are just mimicking others without doing their research first.
How can it harm you
Unless you are pointing the camera at your bed 24/7, your bathroom, or any other unwanted exposures, you are probably safe. So what if the hacker saw you picking your nose? Unless you have that superficial personal image, webcam’s exploitability is very limited. It is not the “zoom and enhances” type of tele lens camera unless you are living in the Hollywood world.
More important than webcam taping fad:
For people who work in secured environment:
ISO/IEC27001 compliant standards require you to check on every strangers without ID around your secured premise. However this was rarely done, due to our common courtesy. The infiltration scenario could have been thwarted easily if everyone start doing this.
For most people:
Your location: do you know that your internet connection can be used to track your location down easily down to the exact GPS coordinate? You don’t even have to turn your GPS on for this. Not too many people use proxy servers, leaving their location exposed.
What you and people around you say: do you know that it is far more damaging for Zuckerberg to have someone record him saying sensitive words rather than seeing his bored and snacking face? People around you might also discuss sensitive information that might or might not concern you that can harm anyone including you. Built-in laptop microphone is hypersensitive too.
Your laziness: too lazy to logout? Reenter password everytime you access the website? Reenter credit card information everytime you make a purchase? Cleanse your cookies? That shows how much you trust these third parties with something that can harm you far more than your silly web cam.
Immitating celebrity stupidity: taping your web cam like Zuckerberg makes you feel important and smarter? How about copying another famous people habit: taking nude selfies and upload them to a cloud storage?
It doesn’t end with “hacking”
Most people learn about hacking from Hollywood films. It gives you the impression of fast keyboard typist entering a lot of commands to a certain non-GUI console. The reality is, hacking today is mostly just clicks and tools, and waiting game. But then so what?
I got the picture of your kittens from your hardrive! So what?
It can’t be exploited against you. They don’t know your location due to your proxy server. An edited kitten photo can’t really hurt you unless you are the bleeding heart kind.
Yes, most systems today are vulnerable. No systems in this world are safe. This is the only thing that is certain. But, threat management includes how you limit the damage from an attack by minimizing the exposure (less personal and sensitive information).
Seriously, what can a fixated built-in laptop webcam can do when you all have smartphones, which are arguably far more dangerous to your personal privacy?
Here’s a summary of the Article, Incase you didn’t read it all:
Why do they do that?
To protect themselves from being visually spied on.
Does it help?
Well, do you see a tape on their phones? Is every other laptop within their vicinity covered too? Are there any other hidden cameras in the visual reach? Is anybody logging the keypresses, mouse movement or contents of the screen? Is the wireless private, secured etc.? Is there a person physically watching? Probably not.
Should they worry?
Unless you’re a public figure, nobody really cares about you eating a bogger, taking a dump. Usually, the more protection, the less interest.
Is it paranoia?
Yes, on the basis that it’s not needed and that nobody actually cares.
Who is in actual need for counter-measures?
Politicians, CEOs, Celebrities etc. Basically, those who can afford to hire an agency to do the security for them. Or, in many cases, those who have the brains not to involve in compromitting deeds (or at the very least delete the traces thereof).