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Security & privacy

Warning! Google Chrome could be filming you right now – Here’s why

Being recorded without your knowledge is one of the biggest violations you can experience in the digital age. Hidden cameras aren’t the only threat because hacked webcams can capture your most intimate moments too.

The worst part is that sometimes our web activity opens the door to voyeurism. You might actually be the one granting access to your webcam and you don’t even know it.

Ran Bar-Zik, who is a web developer at AOL, found what he believes is a bug in Google Chrome that lets websites record video and audio without notifying users. Bar-Zik said that once you give a website access, a hacker could launch an attack that spies on you in the background.

Psst: You can use your webcam to turn the tables. Learn how to turn it into a surveillance cam.

Let’s say you’re using a video chat website to talk to people online. Once you get to the site, it will ask your permission to access your camera and microphone so that you can communicate with others. The title bar in a Google Chrome tab will show the website’s name and a red dot inside a red circle that indicates you’re being recorded.

But once you grant access to a site, permission to use the webcam is for the entire domain name, not just the original window that you’re using to video chat. A hacker can engineer a pop-up window from the site; pop-up windows don’t display a title bar and therefore there would be no red dot to indicate that you’re being recorded.

Bar-Zik reported the issue to Google, who promptly responded: “This isn’t really a security vulnerability – for example, WebRTC on a mobile device shows no indicator at all in the browser. The dot is a best-first effort that only works on desktop when we have chrome UI space available. That being said, we are looking at ways to improve this situation.”

You don’t have to sit around and wait for Google to make that improvement. The simplest way to protect yourself is to cover your webcam and microphone with tape when you’re not using it. That’s what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Pope Francis do!

For a more drastic approach, read this article for tips on securing your webcam and microphone from hackers. You can also disable your webcam all together, click here to learn how. Plus, make sure you know how to spot a malicious website so that you can avoid these vulnerable situations.

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