Can a virus record your webcam?

Beware of viruses that can spy and record your webcam.

You may already be aware that a computer virus or other piece of malware could hijack your files, lock your computer and steal your identity, but these malicious software programs can do much more than that. If you have a webcam on your laptop, smartphone or tablet, it is possible for a hacker to take control of the device.

Considering the fact that so many people keep their smartphones by the bed, it is easy to see the implications of this dangerous new type of data theft. Even if the bad guys do not capture any intimate moments, the damage they do could be incalculable.

Just think about the information a hacker could gain by taking control of the webcam on your laptop. At the very least, the bad guys will get a good look at your home and your possessions, opening you up to real-world theft as well as virtual thievery.

While it may seem like the stuff of science fiction or the ravings of a conspiracy theory, it is possible for a piece of malware or a computer virus to take control of your webcam. There have already been some documented cases of such webcam hijacking, and there is plenty of reason to be concerned.

In the case cited by the New York Post, the offending piece of malware originated with an infected app, just one more reason to watch what you download. Never download an app without doing some research first, including checking the reviews and researching the reputation of the company behind it. While the various app stores do a reasonable job scanning new apps, the sheer volume of new apps makes finding everything nearly impossible. A little bit of caution goes a long way, so be careful when downloading apps to your phone or tablet – and always keep your security up to date.

You can also take a hardware-based approach to protecting your webcam, especially on your desktop or laptop computer. A plastic webcam cover can block access to the device when you are not using it, giving you extra peace of mind and thwarting any bad guys that do get in. You can also cover the webcam on your smartphone or tablet, although doing so can be a bit more cumbersome.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your webcam is use common sense. Take the same security precautions you use on your computer and extend them to your other devices. These other devices are, after all, just tiny computers. Never click links in your email, use a good spam filter and be smart when navigating the web. All of these precautions can help keep you safe from webcam hijacking, so you can keep your data and your home safe.

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