Securing Your Integrated Webcam

Apr 4, 2013

Much has been publicized about the security breach of integrated webcams found in notebook computers. Some of this publicity is warranted; however, most of the risk can be mitigated by applying a few common sense practices.

First, be sure the firmware for the camera is up to date. Routinely checking to see that all hardware devices on a PC have the latest firmware updates is a good idea. In Windows 7, this can be accomplished rather simply. By clicking the “Start” button and then right clicking “Computer”, an options window will open. Clicking “Manage” will open the Computer Management Console. From here, select “Device Manager”. From the “Device Manager”, you can enable, disable and update the various hardware installed on your computer. In the case of the integrated webcam, select “Imaging Devices”. A drop down will appear and your webcam should be listed among the options. Right click on the webcam and select “Update Driver Software”. This will give you a couple of options. You can install a driver you have previously downloaded for the manufacturer’s website or you can select to search the Internet for an updated driver. Most of the time, the driver will already be up-to-date and Windows will tell you that.

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Beyond updating the firmware, take a few common sense practices and integrate them into your digital life to protect your privacy. The first is powering down your PC when not in use. If the PC has no power, your webcam cannot be accessed. The second would be to at least close the lid to your notebook. Even if the PC is powered on and a hacker has gained access to your camera, he would not be able to see anything because the lid is closed.

There is also what can be called the five-cent fix — putting a piece of black electrical tape over the webcam lens. Kim Komando, a syndicated radio talk show host with a self-titled computer radio show, has recommended doing this. However, if you take the steps outlined above, the tape is not necessary.

If you happen to be using an external camera system, a good practice would be to unplug the USB cable from its port when not in actual use so it cannot be exploited.

These are easy practices to implement to keep outsiders from looking in.

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