Have you ever wondered that somebody might be watching you through your laptop’s webcam or smartphone’s camera? Or that while your laptop or smartphone stays on, in your bedroom, somebody might be recording your each and every act? Cracking into device cameras has been around ever since they were commercialized. Most of the devices we use today have cameras embedded in them, wherever we go they follow. Thus, device cameras have become a tool of choice for cyber criminals to spy on someone.
There are many ways in which this problem could be tackled. You can unplug the webcam, puncture the lens or simply, cover it (works for both laptop and smartphone). The last one is less complex and easy to implement. It allows the use of device cameras without compromising one’s privacy. Here are five free, do it yourself, and one paid way(s) to do this:
Scotch tape is a commonly used household item. It’s translucent nature makes it a good cover for webcams and it keeps the beauty of laptop intact. Can be used as a permanent solution.
Got a stack of post-it notes lying around? Here’s another way they can be used. They provide better privacy than scotch tape and you can write short message as well (for example, ‘Remove at your own risk’). Can be used while working at desks, bedroom etc. not advised for meetings or conferences though (unless you’re okay with a post-it sticking out of your laptop screen).
Piece of cloth
In case of an emergency, any piece of cloth can be used as a webcam cover. Just place one over the webcam. It can be held at place by using paper or binder clips. In the image below, I’ve used a hand towel as webcam cover and binder clips to hold it. It’s a bit sore on eyes but provides good privacy.
Tissue paper is another common household item that could be used as a device camera cover. They provide decent privacy and can be used for short intervals (as they keep falling off the screen).
Cardboard can be used to make creative webcam covers. The level of privacy provided is at par with that of a piece of cloth. Below is a sample design, created by the redditer Alhessar. Here’s another design and a detailed do it yourself tutorial created by Ilona of I Love Green Grass.
Paid Webcam Covers
There are ample of commercially available webcam covers (I find them a bit overpriced though). The two shown below, one from C-Slide and another from camJAMR (this works for smartphones as well), are most commonly used designs. In case you find yourself at a security conference, look out for goodies, these are usually included.
In the light of recent hacks, more and more people are using webcam covers to safeguard their privacy. Recently, it was revealed that Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, uses tape to cover the webcam and microphones of his laptop. It doesn’t harm to take precautions, specially when they come at no cost. Also watch out for suspicious behavior of the webcam LED. It shouldn’t be on if you’re not using the webcam.
Searching for the seventh method? Read the article again, carefully.
Got a device camera cover hack or design of your own? We’d love to hear about it.
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Uday Mittal is a cybersecurity professional with rich working experience working with various industries including telecom, publishing, consulting and finance. He holds internationally recognized certifications such as CRTP, OSCE, OSCP, CISSP, CISA, CISM, CRISC among others. He speaks on cybersecurity awareness, offensive security research etc. and has authored various articles on topics related to cyber security and software development for a leading magazine on open source software.