The dark side of the web(cam)

Feel you’re being watched? Jared Moore tells all about hackers spying on us through tiny cameras.

24th October 2016
Feel you’re being watched? Jared Moore tells all about hackers spying on us through tiny cameras.

Arguably, we now live in a society where the computer is a man’s best friend. Many of our basic day to day needs are satisfied through the use of our laptops or smartphones. Whether you crave knowledge, aspire to build new relationships or just want to take the night to binge watch the entire first season of Stranger Things, your computer most likely has you covered.

Socially, computers allow us to thrive in the postmodern; they work against linear preconceptions for time and space. We live in a culture devoted to shortcuts. The likes of Amazon allows you to exchange goods internationally without moving from the comfort of your couch, whilst software such as Skype and Webex eradicate the geographical distance that previously would be covered in order to see another individual. In many respects, it seems like the perfect system -  but is it?

In reality, for most of us our webcams are completely harmless. They’re either never used or, if they are, it’s on those rare occasions when your family are checking you haven’t done anything stupid mid-semester. But occasionally, webcams can be used to intrude upon our privacy from remote locations around the world.

It sounds like something picked out of a horror movie, the thought of someone watching you when you believe you’re completely alone. Yet, it’s more common than you’d think. Webcam hacking is a process carried out by hackers to show off their skills to the surrounding community.

Most hackers use what’s called a Remote Access Trojan (or R.A.T for short) to take control of your computer’s functions. What makes the issue particularly sinister is that often, the person who’s being hacked actually gives the hacker access to their computer. It’s the computer equivalent of accidentally letting a stranger walk straight into the backdoor of your home.

It works by infecting your computer with malware - software which is specifically designed to harm your computer. To infect a system with malware, it requires the user to click on an attachment or download software infected with malware. The only problem is that this could be anything, even something that seems completely innocent!

There are, however, ways by which you can make your computer a safer place. Installing strong anti-malware software and turning on your firewall will help prevent unwanted guests accessing your mainframe. A bit of basic common sense also doesn’t go amiss. Remember when your parents told you not to talk to strangers or play with things that aren’t toys? Well, the same can be applied online. If you don’t know who they are or what they want, then you don’t know what they’re up to. Those pop-up messages that notify you when you’ve won a free iphone 6? Don’t click on them.

If all else does fail and you find yourself paranoid that someone might be staring back at you through the tiny camera at the top of your computer, then there is one final solution to your worries. Tape a bit of paper over it. Then at worst someone’s going to hack in and see a rather fuzzy piece of A4.


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