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Is your gadget's microphone spying on you?

Is your gadget's microphone spying on you?

We've told you about hidden cameras and how to spot them, and even about apps that can be installed on your smartphone or tablet to spy on you. But there's another type of spying that is also concerning.

You might remember the story we shared earlier this month about Kelli Burns, a mass communication professor at the University of South Florida. She suspected that Facebook was gathering information on her using the microphone on her smartphone and using it to pass on to its advertisers. (Click here to read the full story.)

Recent security reports indicate that advertisers aren't the only ones out there who are interested in what you're saying. Hackers are also finding that the cameras and microphones on your devices can provide them with valuable information.

Maybe that's why Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg covers his webcam with tape.

Hacked cameras are fairly easy to spot, since many of them have a light that turns on whenever the camera is in use. But microphones are much more stealthy. How can you tell if your microphone is being used? The short answer is: It's not that easy.

No harm, no foul?

You might think that it's no big deal if someone is listening to your conversations. What can be done with that information anyway? Who cares if someone overhears you sharing spoilers for your favorite show, or rooting for the Red Sox?

But the truth is, this information is quite valuable in the hands of the wrong person. Just think about it. Anytime you log into an online account, you're asked to confirm your username and password, and answer a few security questions. Questions such as the name of your pet, your best friend growing up, favorite sports team, etc.

The answers to these questions could be pieced together based on everyday conversations you're having. That's why you don't want anyone else listening.

Remote Access Trojans, or RATS, are one of the ways hackers can gain access to your system. The software is installed without your consent or knowledge, and it gives hackers the ability to control your computer remotely. This means they can turn your microphone on and off whenever they feel like it.

Even worse, malicious software could be installed on your computer already and you may not know about it. Many forms of spyware are so discreet, you won't notice any changes to your system's functionality.

Next page: Keep reading for more gadgets that are at risk.

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