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Is your webcam spying on you?

webcamDoes your computer have a webcam? If so, did you know that it could be spying on you?

A popular malware named “Blackshades” has made over 700,000 people’s webcams in over 100 countries accessible to hackers. That means that criminals can remotely access your camera to record what it sees – even if you’re not using it. Scary, right?

The Blackshades malware became popular because it was written and sold to the criminal community, rather than just being used by one person. It was also incredibly cheap, too. The cost of the software to access anyone’s webcam? As little as $40 for unlimited attempts.

While Blackshades is most notable for its ability to pry into users’ webcams – without turning on the notification light – it’s actually much more powerful (and even more intrusive) than just watching you at home. Blackshades can also record a user’s keystrokes, passwords, take screenshots and navigate through computer files.

However, the webcam issue has been a particularly poignant one lately. In Boston, one 17 year-old paid criminals $1,000 to not reveal his private webcam photos after they blackmailed him. In London, a similar situation cost a teenager his life, after he became so upset he took his own life. There’s no denying it – this malware has serious, real-world consequences.

Of course, Blackshades isn’t the only malware with this functionality. It’s unfortunate, but if one malware can do it (and get this popular) it’s almost certain that there are other pieces of malware copying its functionality. Despite the recent arrest of the Blackshade’s creator – and hundreds of others who use the software – there will be clones, and they could be even worse.

What to do?

The only definitive way to stop people spying on you via webcam is to cover it up with some tape. Unfortunately, this isn’t the most practical solution, and if anyone sees you doing this, they’ll probably consider you unreasonably paranoid.

If you’re not wiling to take the step of covering your camera (and let’s face it, most of us won’t), the next best solution is to have an up to date antivirus.

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