Norton UK Blog
How to Keep Your Webcam Private
Webcams are great fun. They allow us to talk face to face and in real time with family and friends who live a long way away, hold work meetings with colleagues around the globe, and make videos to post online. Plus you can see each other’s facial expressions and other non-verbal body language cues, making for a much better communication experience than a text chat or ordinary phone call. They’re also widely accessible, as they’re cheap, small and simple to use and are usually pre-installed on laptops.
What’s risky about webcams?
Webcams may feel private – but they’re not. If the person you’re talking to via webcam records you, they can share the video (or any stills they take) with other people, post the content online, share it on Facebook, or email it to someone.
Not only that, but hackers can use a webcam as a window to watch you through and as a gateway to your computer and all the personal data it holds. You might inadvertently let a hacker in by clicking on dubious links in emails or plugging an infected USB key into your laptop or PC.
Although webcam hacking is uncommon, it’s sensible to be proactive. With these simple steps, you can protect yourself and your family in the unlikely event that someone tries to hack into your webcam.
1. Activate security features
Be certain to install the webcam properly and activate security features. If the webcam is already installed on your PC (or a smart television), check that the security features are turned on.
2. Set a new password
Manufacturers tend to set a default password for all of their products. This leaves those products vulnerable to hackers, who can easily scan the internet for them. It’s therefore essential to protect the privacy of your webcam with a new password.
If you have an older webcam that doesn’t have a password, then set one up. To create a highly secure password that’s hard to crack, use our password generator. Passwords should have at least eight characters, containing a mixture of symbols, numbers and both upper- and lowercase letters. Don’t use sequences, such as abcd or 0123.
3. Secure your internet connection
- Change your default router password. Use the latest version of Wireless Protected Access (WPA2) security encryption to password-protect your internet connection.
- Hide your SSID (service set identifier) – the name given to your wireless network. If your SSID is broadcast, other people in your area can see your network and try to jump on.
- Your SSID and password can usually be found on a sticker underneath or on the back of your modem. Check the router manual for instructions on changing the password and turning off SSID.
4. Install security software
Make sure you have comprehensive and up-to-date Internet security software and a firewall. Keep your operating system software updated too.
· If the webcam light turns on when you’re not using it, disconnect from WiFi straightaway and run an antivirus scan.
5. Cover the lens
Not exactly a high-tech solution, but it works. If you’re not using your webcam, then cover the lens with a Post-it note or non-transparent tape. Just be careful not to get the lens sticky.
If it’s an external, plug-in webcam, disconnect it when you’ve finished using it.
6. Protect your mobile devices
Some webcams connect to your smartphone or tablet via apps, so make sure your mobile devices are password-protected (again, change any default passwords) and install security software. Don’t jailbreak your device. If your mobile devices aren’t protected, you’re giving malware a way in.
7. Talk to your kids about safe webcam use
Explain to your children that what they do on a webcam is not really private – that anyone can record and post webcam footage anywhere they please. Make it clear that they shouldn’t do anything on a webcam that they don’t want other people to see.
- Monitor young children’s webcam use. Young kids tend to think less about the consequences of what they do and say.
- A lot of kids love making videos of themselves and putting them up on YouTube. Unless the videos are set to private, anyone can see them. Make sure they don’t post videos online without your permission.
- Tell them not to talk to strangers online.
- Explain that if someone asks them to do things they don’t want to do, threatens or tries to blackmail them, they should stop the webcam chat straight away and tell you or another trusted adult.
- Don’t allow webcams in your children’s bedrooms. Keep them in open areas instead.
- Report webcam abusers to the police.
8. Be careful what you download
Download music, movies and apps only from official sources. Beware of ‘free’ content – it may come with a price if you pick up malicious software too.
9. Avoid links and attachments from unknown sources
Think before you click. Compromised email attachments or links can infect your computer, table or smartphone with malware. If you don’t know the sender, the content looks dubious or you don’t recognise the website a link will take you to, don’t click on it. Same goes for links sent via text.
10. Keep valuables out of sight
Make sure the webcam isn’t showing the viewer anything in your home that’s particularly valuable or that can identify your location.
It’s a wrap
A webcam’s best asset – ease of access to remote footage – is also what makes it potentially vulnerable security-wise. It’s not very likely that your web camera will get hacked, but it’s possible – so it makes sense to be cautious. Taking the security steps above will help ensure that your private life – and that of your family – doesn’t become public. That way, you can relax and enjoy that chat with your loved ones or colleagues without worrying about snooping eyes and ears.
Safe webcamming, everyone.
No one can prevent all cybercrime or identity theft.
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