The Director of the FBI Puts a Piece of Tape Over His Laptop Webcam. Should You?
Cyber security experts chime in on whether this is a smart move or over-the-top paranoia.
FBI Director James Comey said this week, while speaking about privacy issues at Kenyon College, that he places a piece of tape over his laptop webcam to mitigate the danger of secret surveillance.
"I saw something in the news, so I copied it, I put a piece of tape over the camera," Comey explained, "because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their camera."
Some have seen this move as hypocritical, given the FBI's demands that software companies make devices accessible to the federal government, but leaving that argument aside, is putting a piece of tape over laptop webcams something all of us should be doing? Or is that next-level paranoia? Entrepreneur reached out to experts in cyber security and asked.
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"Certainly, if someone wanted to introduce malware on a laptop through phishing or another cyber intrusion technique, a camera takeover is possible," says David Szuchman, Chief of Investigation Division, Manhattan District Attorney's Office. "Putting tape over the camera is a prophylactic measure that may not be necessary for the majority of the population, but can be effective in preventing unwanted and illegal surveillance."
Brandon Webb, former Navy SEAL and founder of SOFREP.com, agrees. "I have lots of friends in the intelligence community, particularly those who do covert work, and they all seem to agree that developing habits like these are worth the time. Our mobile phones and computers are always susceptible to hackers, especially when we travel and use open Wi-Fi networks."
The risks are real, says Kip Boyle, founder and president of Cyber Risk Opportunities. "Whether you're a curious adolescent or an online criminal, either small time or big time, you can use any of a number of Remote Administration Tools (RATs) to turn on someone's webcam without them knowing."
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Boyle explains that hackers first trick someone into downloading the RAT, usually by visiting a malicious URL. They can then connect to the RAT on victims' computers and turn on the webcam. "Once you have access via a RAT, there are almost no limits to what you can do to or with their computer," Boyle warns.
So what's the takeaway here? Check to see if Home Depot is having a sale on masking tape this week and cover up that webcam.