Have you ever noticed you are in a video conference call and did not realize your camera was capturing you? Or maybe you have two cameras, and your software unexpectedly selected the wrong one and broadcast an unflattering camera angle or showed something in the background you thought was out of frame? Embarrassing. Cover up cameras when you aren’t using them.
A young adult received an extortion email claiming to have taken humiliating photos through his laptop’s webcam. The message threatened to send the images to friends and relatives and post them on social media. The youngster felt so distressed that he took his life. All people, including young people, need to know the risk, and please spread the word.
The letters are almost always fake. Executives call us after receiving similar messages. You will know the extortionist is bluffing if you keep your camera covered.
Even a non-technical person could spy on you through your computer, laptop, tablet, or phone, by running typical remote access applications or launching web meeting programs in the background without your knowledge. A bad actor could use advanced techniques to spy on you by remotely activating cameras, and they might disable the camera indicator light.
The most significant danger of covering your camera on a laptop is that if your cover is thicker than a piece of paper, your screen might crack if you stack something on top or compress the closed laptop. The thinner the camera cover, the better.
If you want to use the feature that adjusts the screen brightness based on the ambient light around you, consider using a translucent cover but be sure it blurs the image enough.
You can purchase re-usable peel-and-stick covers for cameras. Remember that sliding covers are risky for laptops and tablets that close. You could trim a part of a sticky note to be your cover for laptops and desktops. Avoid anything that will leave a sticky residue if you peel the tape off later.
If it is impractical to cover your device’s camera, at least check the privacy settings on your phone to control what apps can access your camera. A cover is more secure.
Remember to cover webcams built into some monitors, video game consoles, VR headsets, televisions, and other devices when you’re not using them.
If you have been thinking about covering your cameras, but have not gotten around to it yet, today might be your day. Please spread the word that the extortion letters are almost always fake, and covering a camera is a way to remove all doubt that an unauthorized person took pictures or recorded videos of them. Ensure that youngsters know too; you could save a life.