The Dangers Lurking Behind The Camera Lens

As a liberal arts college student, I learned to accept that my peers, albeit highly intelligent, could also seem a bit eccentric. Still, I thought my future roommate had lost her marbles when she taped a small, thick square over her computer’s webcam. When I asked her about the new addition, she simply replied that she didn’t want to hacked or spied on, and at that, I slowly backed away. Of course, just a few months later, Big Brother gets the last laugh as I too have a square covering my lens. In light of recent news, my roommate’s worries weren’t so far-fetched.

According to Today News’s Rossen Reports, webcam hackers can spy on families easily. Rossen conducted an experiment of a New Jersey family with the permission of the head of household and help of Jim Stickley of TraceSecurity. They hacked into family’s laptop by implanting a Trojan virus into a seemingly innocent e-card of quacking ducks. The process took about “three minutes” and the worst part is that you would never know.  The family, which has two young daughters, were upset at how easily a predator could access their home and sense of safety.

Unfortunately for the Gilberts in Texas, that exact fear occurred. One evening, Marc Gilbert discovered a strange voice coming from his 2-year-old daughter’s baby monitor. The Gilberts realized that the voice not only knew their daughter’s name from an image  on her wall, but was also calling out to her to wake up and “to curse and say sexually explicit things” to the young Allyson while she slept. The Gilberts immediately unplugged the monitor.

Any device hooked up to the internet is fair game. Dave Chronister of Parameter Security recommends a strong password for wireless network–something “long”–and to use a Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) to set up the password, making the the network more difficult to hack because of “encryption standards”.

Thankfully, Allyson Gilbert, having been born deaf and currently dependent on a cochlear implant will not be scarred by comments she could not hear while she slept.

Miss Teen USA, however, does not the fortune of forgetting. Cassidy Wolf, former Miss Teen California, recently was crowned Miss Teen USA 2013, and many sources are applauding her efforts to spread awareness of cybercrime. Wolf’s webcam was hacked long before her beauty queen crowning, when she was just a “normal high school student”. The hacker made contact with Wolf, saying he/she would keep certain photos private–“for a price”. Wasting no time, Wolf notified authorities, and a federal investigation on the extortion is currently underway. In a recent interview with New York Daily News, Wolf offers these tips in prevention of being cyberhacked:

  • Be cautious. Just because the “camera light is not on” does not mean it is not in use.
  • “Change your passwords, delete your cookies […] and browsing history.”

Most importantly, just in case someone is looking through the webcam, put a sticker over the lens when it’s not in use.

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