A webcam on your laptop or desktop computer allows you to record video content and chat with people across the globe, but also opens a small window into your home. Keeping the webcam safe from hackers and other trespassers is critical if you want to protect your privacy. Unprotected webcams are easily accessible to malicious Web users.
Every website you visit is a potential security risk, even for your webcam. While the majority of spyware and virus programs are designed to steal information, an application that delivers remote access to your webcam can also be injected via worm or Trojan. If a hacker has access to your system due to some malicious code somewhere on your hard drive, that hacker can theoretically enable and control any connected peripherals at will.
Everything you do on your wireless network is easily accessible to anyone with access. If your network is not secured with a strong password, a hacker can enter the network and gain access to any device connected to it. This includes webcams. The hacker would have to be within range of the network for this method to work, but it's still important to lock down your wireless network just to be sure.
If you leave your computer on and active when you're not using it, you're giving hackers and thieves the perfect opportunity to access your devices and content without your being aware. In fact, it doesn't take a hacker's mind to access an idle, unprotected camera – sites exist that allow even regular computer users to browse hundreds of cameras connected to the Web but not secured. Shutting down your computer when not in use, or closing the laptop lid, helps keep it and you safe.
While it's true that hackers and other individuals can access webcams without your permission, there are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe. Lock your network with a password, install a robust suite of anti-virus and anti-spyware software, keep your firewall active and remind everyone in your home to follow safe browsing practices. Covering the webcam with tape or disconnecting it between uses will ensure no one sees anything you don't want them to see.
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