Mic Drop. How Secure Are Your Device's Microphone and Camera?

The internet went a little crazy with security buzz the day rumors circulated that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg covers the camera and mic jack on his laptop with a little sticker.

What’s the big deal about that? It spoke to the conspiracy theory-style belief that our technology could be spying on us at any time. While it might seem like just another urban legend about computers and technology, there might be more fact than fiction to the rumors about your webcam or microphone.

As it turns out, your installed camera or webcam and the accompanying microphone used to be powered by add-on software, like a Flash player or a driver. That meant you had to have compatible and updated software running behind the scenes to be able to use these tools. When laptops started coming with an installed camera and tiny mic, it only made sense that the software the runs it was also pre-installed, too.

And that’s where hackers come in.

With the camera installed—and let’s face it, it’s always on at the click of a button—and the software already in place to make it work on any site you want, it wasn’t a huge leap for outsiders to find a way to activate your camera and microphone remotely, namely through remote access Trojans. That’s a horrifying thought if your child’s laptop is on the desk in her room when she changes clothes, but it’s an even more terrifying thought if you’re the CEO of a billion-dollar company and there are meetings taking place in your office…in full view of your camera and audio range of your mic.

In order to avoid the threat, you have some options.

1. The first is to cover your laptop’s camera with a sticky note.

2. You can also disable the camera and the microphone in your computer’s settings, but depending on which operating system and model computer you have.

Tips for Android and iPhone here. 


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: I Received a Breach Notification Letter:  What Do I Do Now? 

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