If you let your inner Miley Cyrus loose and twerk in front of your MacBook occasionally, you may have an unwanted audience.
A recently resolved criminal case shows how a man was able to hack a high school classmate’s laptop in order to take nude photographs with her computer’s camera without her knowledge, before attempting to use the images to extort her, reports The Washington Post.
Even though the FaceTime camera built into your Apple computer was designed to always illuminate the green light next to it to let you know it was on, software has been written that allows the camera to turn on without the light telling you its on. This has been used by both the bad guys and the “good guys” ::COUGH!:: FBI! ::COUGH!:: to spy on unsuspecting subjects.
Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, admitted recently that the bureau has been able to activate a computer’s camera on the sly for several years.
Also, a pair of Johns Hopkins students (PDF) have discovered both a way to disable the LED camera indicator, and a way to modify OS X’s kernel to prevent the bad guys, government or otherwise, from taking control of the LED. The vulnerability they exploit is only in Macs built before 2008, but it is considered likely that there are ways to perform similar hacks on newer machines.
What can you do to prevent an unwanted observer from watching you perform your own version of “Wrecking Ball”? Do what your more paranoid brethren have been doing for years, block the camera by using a simple piece of opaque tape.