Are You Being Watched Through Your Webcam?

Hacked webcam_404_header2
A few clicks of the mouse, and your webcam is activated and ready to be used. But have you considered the possibility that someone else could be watching you through your own webcam? The thought of this probably sends chills down your spine, and it should, as this is very real- and extremely creepy.

How Webcams Get Hacked
Hackers utilize a type of software called remote access tool (RAT) that allows them to remotely access a computer as if they were physically there. Though RATs were designed for legal purposes, like allowing a technician to remotely access a user’s computer to troubleshoot problems without having to physically be there, hackers exploit this software for their own benefit.

Typically, a hacker lures an unsuspecting user into clicking on a link, opening a picture or email attachment, visiting a specific website, or downloading some software. After the user falls for one of these, the RAT software is secretly installed onto the user’s computer. The hacker now has remote access to the user’s computer.

Preventing Your Webcam from Being Hacked
Many articles recommend covering the lens of the webcam with a piece of paper to prevent hackers from spying on you. But doing that alone is brushing the real problem under a rug. Having your webcam hacked means your PC has been compromised by some malware, and you need to take immediate action to get rid of it.

Fortunately, here are some easy things you can do that can prevent your computer from being compromised in the first place.

Don’t be click-happy
Hackers lure victims into installing RAT software onto their PC by disguising links, pictures, or email attachments as something desirable, such as free music, movies, or desktop wallpapers. Be wary of suspicious websites that offer similar items. Also be cautious about clicking on shortened links you may find on social media sites.

Equip your computer with an antivirus and two-way firewall
Having an antivirus and two-way firewall is minimum security any PC should be equipped with. An up-to-date and active antivirus helps to detect and remove malware from infecting your computer. A two-way firewall monitors inbound and outbound traffic to-and-from your computer.

Be cautious of tech support offering remote assistance
Hackers may physically contact you by claiming there are problems with your computer. They’ll try to persuade you to install a program that allows them remote access to your computer, so that they can “fix” the problem. Simply ignore calls from those who claim they are tech support.

Secure your wireless connection
A hacker can easily hack into unsecure Wi-Fi networks with a laptop, antenna, and widely available software. Don’t make it easy for them. Secure your wireless connection with a strong and complex password.

Disable Windows Remote Access
Though most RATs deployed by malware are custom tools, disabling Windows Remote Assistance and Remote Desktop is one thing you can do to prevent hackers from remotely accessing your computer.

To disable Remote Assistance and Remote Desktop for Windows 7, follow these steps:
1. Click on Start and find Computer

2. Right-click on Computer and select Properties
Right-click Computer

3. Click on Remote settings on the left-hand side
Remote Settings

4a. Under the Remote tab, uncheck “Allow Remote Assistance connections to this computer.”

4b. Under Remote tab, click on “Don’t allow connections to this computer”
Remote Properties

5. Click OK

79 thoughts on “Are You Being Watched Through Your Webcam?

  1. I mean, I immediately disabled Windows Remote Access.
    All the rest is already part of my system and procedures.
    Thanks again.

      • With windows 8.1 upgraded on two separate laptops the remote desktop option is no longer here. Unsure of what options to change in the new standalone app.

        • Hi Steve. Accessing remote desktop should be the same as in Windows 8. Click start, find Computer, right-click on it, then you should see in the drop-down menu Properties. From the properties page, you should find Remote Settings.

    • I am a very suspicious person and I almost got snagged by these hackers via the telephone. Someone called one evening and asked me to turn on my computer because it was infected by a nasty virus. When I refused, they said they were tech support and since I had purchased a year of that from HP/Windows and it was coming up for renewal shortly, I thought it was them trying to talk me into another year and using the virus thing as a means to get me to sign up for another year, I resisted because they were so persistent and said no and hung up on them. So, be very careful when you get a tech call to not turn on your computer. By the way, I shut down and turn off the power on my power strip that the computer is attached to when not in use and so should everyone!

  2. Pingback: Are You Being Watched Through Your Webcam? - Remote Computer Expert

  3. I’m not real crazy about the way Microsoft is trying to take over your computer in Windows 8! They want way to much info just to set it up to let you use your computer… Totally unbelievable!!!!!!

  4. These are obvious steps. Are they adequate? Even this page has a potential vulnerability to cross-site scripting caught by “NoScript”. Unsophisticated users should be wary even of sites they have reason to trust because what you see may have nothing to do with what is actually happening.

  5. I’ve been using Zone Alarm for years and highly recommend it to everyone. I also have been aware of the possibility that someone could “Hack” my system and turn the cam on.

    While the posted method does work I travel and require access to my computer from remote locations so this will not work for me.

    The method I have been using for many years is rather old school…. you know before cell phones became computers and did everything perfectly except make and receive phone calls.

    Sometimes the less technical answer is safest and best.

    I just cover the web cam and have my mike turned off until I need them.

    • Turning remote access does not mean your webcam will be hacked. It’s just a precautionary thing you can take. Best thing is to equip your PC with an antivirus and two-way firewall- keep them both up-to-date and active, and practice safe web browsing to prevent malware from getting onto your PC in the first place.

  6. I don’t leave my webcam connected to the computer when it’s not in use. It can’t be remotely accessed if it’s sitting in a drawer.

  7. This happened to me over 13 or 14 years ago. It is why I started uses Zonealarm. It was a scary situation. Wow, I did not realize I have been using your products for so long! Many thanks!

  8. Thanks for the timely advice. I had permitted remote access for my work IT department to remady a remote access problem I had gaining access from home p.c.to my work’s server. I forgot to cancel their access permission on completion of their work and they did not prompt me to do so. Thanks again.

  9. Thank-you for the useful and much needed advice. The half dozen or so articles I have recently read in regard to webcam remote-jacking have not mentioned disabling remote access capabilities.

    Keep up the good work and all the best.

  10. Why was remote access given to my PC in the first place? Does MS need it for upgrades? And will disabling the access cause other problems I don’t know of?

    With thanks,
    Ulrike

    • Regardless if you’re running XP, Vista, 7, or 8, the point here is to make sure you take preemptive measures to ensure your PC doesn’t get infected with malware. If you’re talking about disabling remote access, you can take what we’ve provided and follow the same steps towards your XP. It may be slightly different but similar enough for you to follow.

  11. Thanks for the advice. Only this week someone called twice telling me that they were from windows and the were receiving reports that my computer was corrupted and I needed to download some software to fix it. Needless to say I didn’t. Thanks again

  12. Question: when the webcam is being used, normally a led next to it will light up. Can hackers circumvent this and use the webcam without the led lighting up?

    • Of course. Best thing to do is make sure your PC has an antivirus and two-way firewall, both up-to-date and active, as well as practicing safe web browsing.

    • There shouldn’t be any issues. If you’re trying to use chat (not sure what platform you’re referring to), and you experience issues, try to enable remote access and see if that solves the issue. Main point here is to make sure your PC has an antivirus and two-way firewall…and make sure it’s up-to-date and active!

  13. These informations are distress-busters.Please,we owe you tons of gratitude which those on the other side wish you should have kept them to yourselves.You have made our pc a spartan.I tell you the under-hood-guys would be swearing themselves mad.

  14. It is probably a good idea to disable RAT even if you don’t have a webcam (I don’t). You can do far more with RAT than just control a webcam. The advice warning against social engineering needs to be stronger. It is the weakness for which there is no technical solution.

  15. Okay this really gave me a ton of reference to help keep my computer secured. I have to be honest, it was a good thing I signed up for the ZA newsletter. Thank you so much for the advice.

    • ZoneAlarm protects against viruses, hackers, and other malware. However, this does not mean your PC is invincible to all attacks. If your PC has at least a two-way firewall and antivirus, and they’re always up-to-date and active, and you practice safe web browsing, the probability of you having your webcam hacked (or compromised by malware) is slim.

    • We don’t support gaming consoles such as Xbox or Playstation. We recommend contacting the support dept of the manufacturer of the gaming console you’re using.

  16. Pingback: Are You Being Watched Through Your Webcam? | ZoneAlarm Security Blog « TopGearTechnologies

  17. Is this used by Skype? I turned this remote option off and my Skype didn’t work. I have rechecked it for now, until I have time to experiment with it – or hear back from you…

    • Regardless if you’re running XP, Vista, 7, or 8, the point here is to make sure you take preemptive measures to ensure your PC doesn’t get infected with malware. If you’re talking about disabling remote access, you can take what we’ve provided and follow the same steps towards your XP. It may be slightly different but similar enough for you to follow.

  18. Iam glad that I read through this article, and yes, I will definitely do this today itself. No need for Remote assistance, never used it anyway

  19. If your webcam can be unplugged, do so when it’s not in use. If it’s built in to your computer or other device, cover its lens (this won’t prevent audio eavesdropping).

  20. What about for Mac. Is this as well a problem were can be hack through webcam. If not is there any other problems useing Mac i should worry about.

    • The point here is to take preemptive measures to make sure malware doesn’t infect your computer, whether it’s a PC or a Mac. There have been cases where Mac users have had their computer infected by malware.

  21. Whoo-hoo! Thank you, I just did this. I’ve been paranoid about this since PCs first came out, so I have always covered my webcams 24/7. People just stared like a deer in headlights when I talked about the paranoia. Now, no more need :)

    • Do realize that even though a piece of tape or paper over the webcam does block whoever is viewing you through it from viewing you, that does not address the malware problem. Don’t merely block your webcam and think everything is okay, especially if you know your PC has been compromised.

      • Covering is not enough; once the bad guys gain access to your system it is not just to your camera, it is to your whole, entire, complete computer. Everything you have in your computer is available to the bad guys. That is why you must have anti-virus with ZoneAlarm firewall.

    • At this time, we do not support Mac products. We’re sure you can find resources on this topic through a Google search. Thanks.

    • Unfortunately, we don’t offer products for linux, so it would be odd to talk about an OS we don’t support. However, you can do a simple search online and find information on this. Thanks.

  22. I have no webcam in the computer I use regularly. Though, the two laptops I sometimes use both have webcams, that can not be unplugged. Why do these webcams come with at tiny lid? I have heard some people put a bit of black tape over the camera lens. Still propably a hacker can use the microphone for listening.

  23. In fact this article does not go far enough. The camera can be activated WITHOUT the light being activated. This was also one of the first things that hackers and software technicians did when Google gave them access to Google glasses prototypes. So now if someone says my google glasses are not recording because the light is not on – that may is no longer the case and could still be recording without the light activation !

    • Very true that the light indicator on webcams can be disabled. However, the point here is to take preemptive measures to make sure malware doesn’t compromise your PC in the first place.

  24. The point is many people need to take advantage of the free security for computers that is out there today. I use ZoneAlarm free but now have bought their firewall version for even better protection. I also use an anti-virus which is free but I now bought that as well(AVG). I also follow SGR, who is dedicated to securing computers for free.

    • Thanks for using our ZoneAlarm product. Please make sure your PC is running only one firewall and one antivirus. Do not run more than one of each on your PC, as this can cause conflicts.

  25. i had my remote access enabled because i needed a acer tech to help me with something never disabled it and i dint think that could be very good to so thanks for the advise

  26. can you explain the part where you say “it was originally used by technician to diagnose problem
    if a technician wants to do that they don’t see ME do they?
    they see what’s on the SCREEN of the computer so what does this have to with the builtin camera or webcam which is a separate entity?
    or am i missing something here?
    can you clarify?

  27. an hour ago my girlfriend and i were having a video call on skype. when we finished our conversation, she shut down her laptop and then she saw also on the screen that says camera shutting down. there are also plenty numbers that appeared along with it. she told me that there is also like an icon app camera of what she saw. she told that it was her first time to encounter that. any idea what that is?

    • First thing is to make sure your PC has at least an antivirus and two-way firewall, and that both are up-to-date and active. Next, you can disable the webcam and see if it turns back on by itself. If the light on your webcam turns on by itself, then your PC might have been compromised. There are too many variables; you can seek further assistance at out user forum @ https://www.zonealarm.com/forums/forum.php

  28. There’s no “Remote Desktop” section, I did un-check the “Allow Remote Connections to this Computer”.

    Please help.

  29. Pingback: Your Web Cam is Watching You – Computer Repair Lake Havasu City | NSquared Designs

  30. i have already off my remote access to my pc , without reading it . and what else i can u do make secure my pc . sometime i see somtimes windows size r different by its self so i think someone accesses my pc and hacks cam osmeone can tell me what should i do to make secure my pc from any hacker .thanks .

    • Make sure you have at least an antivirus and two-way firewall and stay vigilant while on the Web, which include thinking before clicking and not downloading files from unknown sources.

  31. hi ….. my cam is hacked. i m facing trouble. i got a file on yahoo chat . its RAT image on the file . i opened it . there was a pic. but after that i noticed that ma cam is open n someone is watching me. so anybody can help me…… how can i remove it ?

    • The first thing you should do is install an antivirus and run a deep scan. Next, if that does not address the issue, we recommend taking it to a professional PC repair shop and have them take a look.

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