Protect yourself from computer hackers that may gain access to your webcam

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Having the latest in computers is usually a bonus unless someone is using your own technology against you.

Practically all computers being sold these days come with a web camera. That fact, and a case involving students in Philadelphia who found out their school was monitoring them through the cameras, has prompted a strong sense of unease in some people.

Can someone be watching you or your children without your knowing?

Ken Colburn, the owner of Data Doctors, has turned on the web camera on his employee’s desk from a remote computer. He explains, “I can be monitoring whatever is coming across the webcam on Clayton’s desktop and he will not know that I'm watching him right now.”

Colburn only does this as a demonstration of the capability out there. He says, “The bad news is your webcam can be hacked. The good news is it does kind of require you to fall into a little prank or allow something to get installed on your computer.”

Installing remote-monitoring equipment can be done mainly in one of two ways. Burns explains, “Sending you a link in an email, sending you a text message that says ‘Hey check this out’ and you click on the link and actually runs an installation program and you allow this to happen.” He adds, “If somebody can gain access to your computer for a very short period of time, they can slip a program on that would then allow them to access it remotely and take advantage of your webcam.

Contrary to what some people think, just being on the internet does not make your webcam vulnerable but it is not
difficult for hackers to buy access programs.
Burns says, “A simple search for a remote webcam spying software shows you a whole list of companies that are
selling these.”
The software can also track every key stroke, every text message and everything that you ever post anywhere on the internet. Colburn says there are ways to protect yourself if you think someone has gotten into your computer. You should have an expert "look under the hood.”

Also, keep your computer updated with the latest patches for your operating system and security programs.

A potential indication, but not absolute, that someone is accessing your webcam is if the little LED indicator is on, but you are not using your webcam in any program.

For more computer questions contact Ken Colburn with the Data Doctors by calling (480) 921-2444 or email ken@datadoctors.com.