The ingenuity of hackers, thieves and other miscreants is unlimited it seems.
Every day they come up with new ways to scam, hack and break into computers in order to steal bank account and credit card numbers, photos, addresses, phone numbers and other pieces of sensitive information.
Their latest trick is hacking into people’s computers and spying on them via their own webcams.
It’s happening a lot right now, and the vast majority of the victims are completely unaware that they’re being spied on until someone tells them that photos and/or videos of them are being spread all over the web.
And depending on where you were in the house and what you were doing at the time, some of those photos and videos can be extremely invasive and embarrassing.
It’s very easy to fall victim to this scheme too. The way it usually works is you click on an innocent looking link in an email or on Facebook which then downloads a “trojan horse” to your hard drive, giving the hacker a back door into your system along with full access to everything captured by your webcam from that point forward. What’s worse, they can even turn on your webcam remotely!
Luckily, protecting yourself from this scam is relatively easy. If you have a laptop with a built-in webcam, cover the lens with a post-it note or small strip of masking tape when you’re not using the camera.
If you opt for the masking tape, make sure the glue on the tape doesn’t come into contact with the lens itself. It also a good idea to get into the habit of shutting the lid when you’re not going to be using your laptop for a while.
If you have a laptop or desktop PC connected to a stand-alone webcam, simply unplug the webcam from the computer when it’s not being used.
It’s also wise to be extremely careful about how you use your computer in general. This post offers several tips for safely using the Internet and email. The article deals with a slightly different aspect of Internet security than the one we discussed above, but the tips it offers apply here as well.
Bonus tip #1: This post explains how to thoroughly check your computer for viruses and other malware an get rid of any and all nasties that are found.
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