One of the things we often see when we work on clients’ computers is a covered webcam – usually with a strip of tape, occasionally with a post-it note, band-aid, or, in some more extreme cases, with paint or nail polish. It’s understandable to see a camera lens pointed at you and wonder what it’s doing. After all, how do you know somebody’s not watching it right now? This made the national news last year when FBI director James Comey, following advice he’d seen online, admitted he taped over the camera on his computer. This might very well leave you wondering if this is something we need to worry about or do in our daily lives.
I’ll get the scary part out of the way first – yes, viruses do exist that could allow someone to access your webcam remotely. However, these are extremely rare, and can usually be overcome just through safe web browsing habits and keeping your anti-virus software up to date. In addition, on nearly every computer in production, a small light next to the camera will turn on whenever the camera is on, making it very clear that something is accessing your camera. It’s not likely to be something you’ll ever come across, but if the camera’s light is on and you’re not using the camera, stop what you’re doing and scan for viruses immediately – this isn’t a guaranteed sign of infection, but it’s a pretty big red flag.
You’re not hurting anything by putting a piece of tape or something similar over the camera lens, either. I don’t think it’s necessary, and if you occasionally use the camera to chat with friends and loved ones you don’t see enough, it can be a rather bothersome nuisance. After all, do you really want to have to peel whatever is over the camera off, and clean the lens every time you want to use it? Another thing to keep in mind is to not use anything that’s permanent or extremely sticky. While a post-it note or band aid can be a mental reassurance, stronger adhesives or paint could permanently damage your camera, so avoid using these at all costs!
The thought of hackers invading both your computer and your privacy is a terrifying concept, and it’s easy to get to a point of deciding to take drastic measures to prevent this. However, as long as you practice safe web browsing habits (Note: do we have a post about this?) and check for viruses regularly, you should have nothing to worry about. If the worst does happen, however, the Geek Squad is prepared to fix this or any other technical issues you face!