Is Your Computer Spying on You?

It is pretty interesting what you find when you rummage around your computer.

Most computers these days have cameras and microphones. Do you know which applications can access your camera? What about your microphone? I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t even know where to look to find the answer to that question. When I looked, I was surprised what I found.

Both of these device controls can be found in the Windows SETTINGS app.

In settings, click on CAMERA to see this:

From this screen, you can see which apps, on my computer, had access to my camera. I understand why Skype needs access to my camera (maybe – depends if you are a Skype user), but why does the 3D Viewer need it? I am not even sure what that is. Microsoft Photos? I ONLY use it to look at pictures. Disable all of those items that you do not want to give access to your camera. You can always turn it back on if you want to.

Now move onto your microphone. It is on the same screen, just further down.

Again, there are apps that I don’t even know what they are that have access to my microphone. What is the feedback hub anyway?

Note that Microsoft’s Cortana is disabled. That is because I don’t use it. If you do use it, it needs to be on.

It is unlikely that these apps are evil, but they do increase the attack surface.

Every app has the possibility of being compromised or having bugs that allow hackers to take over the apps and take control your devices.

You have probably seen people that put tape or little slides over their cameras. That pretty effectively stops people from seeing things that they should not see.

There is no equivalent way to stop apps from hearing what is going on. Tape does not solve this problem.

In some cases there is a way to handle this.

After using a laptop for many years, last year I switched to a desktop. I wanted to have a more powerful computer – multiple disk drives, an amazing amount of memory, etc.

One thing that happened as a result of that was that I no longer had a built in camera. My camera sits on top of my monitor and plugs into a USB port.

For me – and this won’t work for everyone – I unplug my camera when I am not on a video conference. That camera, an inexpensive Logitech unit, is also my computer’s microphone. When I unplug the camera, the microphone is unplugged as well.

Highly effective. I don’t know how to hack a camera or microphone that are not connected and not powered on. Consider that.

Just food for thought.

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