Tag Archives: Camera

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.

The Spy Among Us

Multiple sources are reporting a feature of iPhone apps that is a major privacy concern.  This is not new and it also is an issue on Android phones, but, for some reason, everyone seems to be highlighting the problem with iPhones.  PERHAPS, that is because it it is being exploited in the wild on iPhones – I don’t know.

The short version goes like this –

IF you EVER allow an app to access your phone’s cameras, you have lost control of it.  That app can access your camera – both front facing and rear facing – whenever it wants to.  It does not have to ask you to access the camera.

You are trusting that app not to abuse that trust.

Actually, it kind of depends on whether YOU installed the app or someone else installed it – with or without your knowledge.  For example, here are 5 spying apps that people intentionally install.  It may be a parent or a spouse, but it is likely not you who installed the app.  Sometimes parents want to track what their kids are doing.  Sometimes a spouse wants to spy on their significant other.

The app could upload the photos to the net and/or it could process the images – say to examine your facial images as you look at the screen.

One part of the problem is that there is no indication that the camera, front or back, is on.  As a side note, while there is a light on many PCs indicating the camera is running, that is a bit of software and the camera COULD be turned on without the light being on.

Apple (and Google) could change the camera rules and require the user to approve camera access every single time the camera wants to turn on – but that would be inconvenient.

One of my contacts at the FBI forwarded an alert about this today, so I suspect that this is being actively exploited.

The FBI gave a couple of suggestions –

  1. Only install apps from the official app store, not anyplace else.
  2. Don’t click on links in emails

In reality, the only recommendation that the FBI made that will actually work is this next one:

3. Place a piece of tape over the front and rear camera.

Ponder this thought –

The camera sits on your table in front of you;  it is in your bedroom, potentially capturing whatever you do there; it is in your bathroom. You get the idea.

Just in case your were not paranoid enough before.

Information for this post came from The Hacker News and The Register.

New iPhone Might Shut Off Next Time You Try To Film In Public

Apple was granted a patent last month that allowed someone to shut down photo and video recording on all nearby iPhones – say if you were photographing the police or a concert.

The patent uses an infrared signal that would be received by appropriately equipped iPhones to disable the camera.

Think about who might like that –

(a) Someone goes to a rock concert and before the concert is even over, a video of the concert is posted on Facebook or YouTube, or

(b) There is a demonstration and some activists want to film the actions of the police.

There are probably an unlimited number of possibilities, both positive and negative – governments worldwide, repressive and otherwise, businesses and celebrities.  How  many politicians would love to be able to shut down recording of an event to control their message?

People who do not want incidents recorded have been known to confiscate or destroy phones.  This would be much simpler.

Of course, *IF* Apple decided to integrate that into a future phone, I assume that would not work on their competitor’s phones – Android or Windows.

From a competitive perspective, I think that implementing such a feature would be a marketing disaster for Apple, but you never know what people might think.

The author of the source article reached out to Apple for comment, but has not received a response.  Given Apple’s normal penchant for secrecy, it is not clear that they would say anything no matter what they are thinking of using it for.

On the other hand, some governments might require that as a condition of selling their handsets in that country.

I learned a long time ago – never say never.

Information for this post came from Mic.com .