Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Advertisement

They can see you. Whenever necessary, whether by a Trojan (they’re capable of recording Skype calls This Trojan Malware Might Be Recording Your Skype Conversations This Trojan Malware Might Be Recording Your Skype Conversations If you've use Skype, you need to know about the Trojan T9000, malware that records your conversations, video-calls and text messaging, and is virtually undetectable to security suites. Read More ), security software backdoor, or a Wi-Fi router vulnerability, you can be observed via your device’s webcam How to Make Your Wireless Security Cameras Untouchable to Hackers How to Make Your Wireless Security Cameras Untouchable to Hackers Over the past few months, stories about security vulnerabilities abound. Clearly this is not an acceptable state of affairs. To combat this, you should secure your security cameras. Let's find out how. Read More . It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about a phone, or a tablet, or a PC.

They can see you.

Seeing as you probably don’t want to be seen, you’ll need to take steps. Which programs are using your webcam? Are they private and secure apps? And how can you stop your webcam being used against you permanently?

Let’s find out!

The Multiplatform Solutions: Cover the Webcam

It doesn’t matter what sort of device you’re using. If you’re concerned about the webcam, and possibility of the NSA or some other surveillance agency hacking the camera, you can easily cover it up Why You Should Disable or Cover Your Webcam Right Now Why You Should Disable or Cover Your Webcam Right Now If you aren't careful, hackers can easily gain access to your webcam and spy on you without your knowledge. So you have two options: disable the camera or cover it up. Read More .

The smartest and quickest option is to find a sticky label and place it over the sensor. This might be a small sticky note, or a simple label. Once you’ve done this, you can then think about buying a dedicated solution.

Advertisement
WebCam Cover Solid Black WebCam Cover Solid Black Webcam Cover for Laptop, Tablet, Smart Phone or Any Web Camera Lens Cover Buy Now At Amazon $4.99

One example is this solid cover that can be applied up to 250,000 times. It works on virtually any surface, making it ideal for laptops, smartphones, tablets, even game consoles.

Other solutions are available. When you’re happy with your webcam cover, it’s time to find out which programs have access to it, and prevent unauthorized use.

Meanwhile, if you have a USB webcam, simply unplug it when it’s not in use!

Use Process Explorer to Trace Access to Your Windows Webcam

Windows computers are particularly prone to giving up access to the webcam. Fortunately, it isn’t too difficult to find out what programs are accessing the camera, and stop them. Microsoft produces an app that you can download to Windows 10 (and below) called Process Explorer. You’ll find this 1.8 MB download on the Microsoft TechNet site.

Once downloaded, extract the contents of the ZIP file, and navigate to the ProcessExplorer sub-directory. Right-click the version that meets your system architecture (there is a 32-bit and 64-bit version) and click Run as Administrator. In the resulting Security Warning box, click Run, then Agree to the license terms. Then minimize the Process Explorer application window, to return to it later.

Identify Your Webcam in Windows

The next stage is to identify your webcam in Windows 10. This is done by opening Device Manager, which you’ll find by right-clicking the Start menu. Expand Imaging devices, then find the entry that is labelled as the camera.

Right-click this, select Properties, and in the properties box choose the Details tab. Under Property, select Physical Device Object name, and right-click the value, selecting Copy.

Which App is Using Your Webcam?

You’re now ready to trace the apps using your cam. Expand Process Explorer, and in the menu bar select Find (or CTRL + F), then Paste the contents of your clipboard into the field. This should be the value you copied from the Physical Device Object name.

Click Search, and wait for the results. A list of processes that have access to your webcam will be displayed. Scroll through the list in the main window and look for anything unfamiliar. Once you’ve found something you don’t recognize, right-click it, select Properties, then Kill Process. Confirm with OK.

You’ll easily be able to distinguish trusted apps with ones you don’t. The name of the software is listed under Process, and while this might appear unfamiliar, you can check the Description and Company Name fields to get an idea of what it is. In most cases, this should be clear. In others, you might prefer to take further steps, such as a web search, to find out what the process is.

Problems? Scan for Malware — Now!

If it turns out that there is a piece of software accessing your webcam that isn’t recognized, you’ll need to take action. This will indicate that malware is present on your system, and you’ll naturally be anxious.

Take the simple option: scan your PC for malware immediately. If you think you don’t have anti-malware software installed, you’re probably wrong. Recent versions of Windows ship with Windows Defender built-in How to Manually Disable Windows Defender in Windows 10 Home How to Manually Disable Windows Defender in Windows 10 Home Want to disable Windows Defender in Windows 10 Home without messing with the registry? Here's how to do that! Read More . You’ll typically find it in the Start menu (under All apps > Windows System), but it can be searched for, too.

Once running, click Full, then Scan now. Although it once had a poor reputation, Windows Defender is a far more competent How to Use Windows Defender Malware Protection on Windows 10 How to Use Windows Defender Malware Protection on Windows 10 Like any Windows operating system, Windows 10 is open to abuse and vulnerable to online threats. Security software is mandatory. Windows Defender is a good place to start and we guide you through the setup. Read More anti-malware scanner these days. If you prefer to choose a different anti-malware tool, however, make sure you select one that you trust.

Don’t Trust the App? Uninstall!

On the other hand, if the application with access to your camera is one you don’t trust, or don’t believe should have access, uninstall it. This should be easy to complete on Windows via the Change or remove program tool in the Control Panel. One of these Windows uninstallers 3 Best Third-Party Uninstallers & Why You Need Them 3 Best Third-Party Uninstallers & Why You Need Them To uninstall a Windows program, you can’t just hit 'Delete’ -- you need to run the software’s uninstaller. Unfortunately, the 'Uninstall a program’ option in the Windows Control Panel does not always completely remove it... Read More should be able to help if you run into problems.

Overall, it’s unlikely that anyone is watching you, whether security services or voyeuristic hackers. If they are, the steps are clear:

  • Cover (or disconnect) your webcam, whatever platform you’re using.
  • Install Process Explorer to find out what software is accessing the webcam.
  • If the software is unfamiliar, carry out a full system anti-malware scan.

Indeed, make sure you have a sticky dot for your mobile webcam with you at all times! Are you concerned about privacy when there is a webcam glaring at you? Tell us about it in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Mark
    November 29, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    It does not work:
    I opened Chrome and launched Google Hangout and started a video call, which automatically start the camera feed even if you do not add/invite anybody.
    I searched for my USB webcam "Physical device object name" using the latest Process Explorer Version 16.20 and it found 0 items!

    • Mark
      November 29, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      My Bad, I actually had the cam Virtual Dev service cloaked.
      It works when used in standard way.

  2. crewjhn
    June 5, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    Is there anyway i can find a log file for what were the applications used my Webcam in the past few hours or days?

  3. JJ
    May 6, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    what if it says 0 items found when I search in process manager?
    I tried to video call in skype and it says I cannot because another program is using webcam...so I found this article and followed all steps to find what program is using the webcam -- and it says "0 items found"; yet my webcam light is still on...

  4. Max
    December 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Thanks! It's brilliant. It worked! But do you know why this method doesn't work for microphones?

  5. Mickji
    June 3, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    The removable sticker idea is good, but there is another problem with webcams...the mic. If someone can see you, they also can hear you and the same happens with your desktop. I have an antivirus and don't download any weird thing that I see around, the checking haven't showed any virus, and the scan shows sometimes numbers instead of a program name. To kill the process using the webcam every single time seems to not be sufficient in my case..

  6. robin waazenegger
    May 30, 2014 at 2:50 am

    got a penny dangled over my laptops camera

  7. wolf
    May 29, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    I don't suppose you have a similar article for Macs?

  8. Daniel E
    May 26, 2014 at 4:13 am

    Looks like a mash-up candidate

  9. Morrison
    May 24, 2014 at 6:24 am

    Interesting article. Am a user of Sysinternals software, but didn't know you could search by device name. CORRECTION however - Sysinternals was not developed by Microsoft. See (for example) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sysinternals#Winternals_Software_LP

    • Erez Z
      May 25, 2014 at 10:53 am

      Sorry, did not mean to imply that was the case -- i've been using Sysinternals software since before they were purchased by MS. Thanks for the link.

  10. Suleiman
    May 23, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    This is a serious top these days. Yesterday, a renowned news station in my city talked about webcam peeping problems and today you posted about it.
    My question is that will this peeping can happen to our cellphone cams too?

    Thanks for the posting, it was a great read with important infos.

    • Maarten D
      May 23, 2014 at 6:40 pm

      Didn't think about that yet! Probably not possible with iPhones, but because Android is much more open, it is probably already happening!

    • Erez Z
      May 25, 2014 at 10:52 am

      Yes, smartphone cameras can be used to spy on you. My own phone's cameras (front and back) are both covered with removable, reusable tape. I remove it when I want to snap a photo.

      See http://snacksforyourmind.blogspot.co.il/2014/05/exploring-limits-of-covert-data.html for a technical writeup of how this can be accomplished on an Android phone.