Speaking at a conference this week, FBI Director James Comey offered up a little security tip: cover your webcam. Don’t laugh, but Comey said that nearly every computer in every government building has a webcam cover in order to prevent “unauthorized” people from spying on federal employees.
“There’s some sensible things you should be doing, and that’s one of them. You go into any government office and we all have the little camera things that sit on top of the screen. They all have a little lid that closes down on them. You do that so that people who don’t have authority don’t look at you. I think that’s a good thing,” Comey said, reports 9to5 Mac.
As odd as it sounds, the FBI director might be right. He’s certainly not the only high-profile security-minded individual to come out in support of covering your webcam in recent months. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, also covers his webcam – as we discovered earlier this year in this photo.
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Internet sleuths magnified the photo and it appears that Zuckerberg’s webcam is covered by a little piece of tape. Does it work? Well, anything obstructing the view of your webcam is certain to keep it from seeing you, but is it a worthwhile security measure?
Actually, yes. James Comey isn’t exaggerating in saying that your webcam could be used to spy on you without your knowledge or consent. In a study published back in 2013, security researchers at Johns Hopkins discovered a way to remotely disable the indicator lights MacBooks manufactured before 2008. Further, the researchers were able to use malware to hijack the webcam’s video and audio feeds.
The FBI has itself tried to use similar methods to gather evidence in at least one case. As Slate points out, a federal judge once denied the FBI’s request to conduct remote surveillance on a suspect by hijacking his webcam remotely.
It’s a real concern, unfortunately, and a cottage industry has sprung up to provide security-minded individuals with secure options to cover their webcams. But if tape’s good enough for Mark Zuckerberg, it’s probably good enough for most of us.