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A webcam is one of the most important computer accessories and can be used in a variety of ways. It also poses one of the most serious threats to privacy invasion. If a second party gains control of your webcam, they can use it to spy on you, with potentially terrible consequences.
Fortunately, a webcam is difficult to control without you being aware that it is in use. Here are seven ways for you to check if your webcam has been hacked.
1. Check the Webcam Indicator Light
The little red/green/blue indicator light near the lens lets you know if your webcam is currently recording video. That means the light needs to be off when you are not using the webcam. If you see the light flashing, that means someone else is accessing your webcam.
If you see it glowing steadily, that means the webcam is recording video. In both cases, you will know that your webcam is under external control.
Sometimes, the light stops working, and owners don’t bother to get it fixed. But having a webcam with no warning light increases the risk of someone remotely controlling your webcam without your knowledge.
In any case, it’s a good idea to block your camera when you’re not using it.
2. Check Your Storage Files
If someone is using your camera to record footage, a major telltale sign would be the presence of video or audio storage files that you did not create. Open the webcam recordings folder. Files you don’t remember creating could have been recorded by a hacker using your webcam.
The hacker could have also changed the location of the files to a new folder, so check your webcam settings to ensure the saved files location folder is the one you chose yourself.
3. Check for Unknown Applications
In some cases, your webcam may be running as part of an application that you have no knowledge. This is what happens when you download a virus or malware and it takes over your webcam. To find out if this is the case, try to run your webcam.
See message stating that your webcam is already in use? An application is controlling your webcam. Find out whether the application is one that you installed or malware by tracking down programs that are using your webcam.
4. Run a Malware Scan
By this stage, it’s time to pinpoint the exact nature of the application that is running the webcam. That is when you do a malware scan on your computer. Follow these steps to performing a scan:
- Boot your PC into Safe Mode, which is an inbuilt troubleshooting feature that stops all but the necessary drivers and programs. One simple method of booting into Safe Mode for Windows 10 is to type msconfig into Cortana and press enter.
This opens the System Configuration panel, where you head to Boot options and select Safe Boot. Your system will boot into Safe Mode upon restarting.
There are also other ways to access Safe Mode in Windows 10.
- Once the PC is in Safe Mode, delete temporary files to free disk space and speed up scanning.
- Run whatever antivirus program you’re using to see if it detects the presence of the virus.
- In some cases, your antivirus program will be unable to detect the virus. In such cases, you can run Google Chrome’s built-in malware scanner. This scanner often has a more up-to-date library of known virus programs that may be plaguing your computer.
5. Observe the Camera Behaving Abnormally
Webcams are growing more sophisticated by the day, which means they are capable of more functions. For example, webcams can move from side to side for better video capture, while built-in mics and speakers let them act as phones
Webcams can also adjust their lenses for improved resolution. If you notice the webcam doing any of these things unprompted, that indicates it is being controlled remotely.
Pay close attention to the signs, and watch the camera carefully. Does it change position, or make noises? If so, the device has been hacked.
6. Check the Webcam Security Settings
You can use your webcam for home surveillance, provided the settings haven’t been compromised. One thing you need to check for is whether your camera’s security settings have been changed.
How can you tell?
- Your password has been changed to its default setting.
- You are no longer able to make changes to the settings yourself.
- The firewall protection for your webcam has been turned off.
- The admin name has been changed.
Find your camera’s security settings, and go through them to determine any differences.
7. Check the Data Flow
The data flow of your network can tell you how much internet data is being used during an online session. Sudden spikes in your network traffic indicate that data is being used without your knowledge.
Check this using a task manager tool.
For example, in Windows 10 you can use the App history tab in Task Manager to see what apps are accessing the network. Monitor this to see if your webcam or an unknown application is sending data. Once you’ve found the program, use a malware removal tool to track it down and delete it.
Keep an Eye on Your Webcam
Your webcam allows you to keep an eye on your home, but you need to keep an eye on your webcam as well. Spotted a problem with the webcam? Has it been compromised?
You now know what to look for, so take appropriate steps to deal with the problem. If you can’t guarantee the webcam is free of malware, consider buying a new low-budget webcam and use these methods to keep your home security system safe.
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