It's easy to get lulled into thinking you're protecting your digital devices. You use complex passwords and passphrases, you use a virtual private network (VPN) when you're on public Wi-Fi and you have an antivirus program installed.
Still, hackers are clever and devious, and they're invading your privacy in increasingly frightening ways. Hackers can remotely take over webcams and watch your family and you in the privacy of your home.
Bonus: Listen to Kim talk about a frightening hack of a home security camera.
That is terrifying, so it's critically important that you protect yourself. Here are a few tips to see if hackers are accessing your webcam and, more important, we have a few straightforward tips to prevent hackers from using your webcam to watch you.
How to see if your webcam is being hacked
You can check to see if your webcam is in use in a few ways. The easiest way on some webcams, notably the type that you attach to your laptop, is to see if the green light is on or blinking. Built-in webcams don't always have that light, but many will turn on a white light for illumination. That's an indication that it is on.
If you have a green light, you'll want to take these extra steps to ensure that you stop hackers from accessing it. If you don't have a webcam that has a green indicator light, you'll need to take these extra steps, too.
You have probably used task manager to see which programs are slowing down your laptop. You may have too many software programs running at the same time.
You can also use it to see if your webcam is in use. With Windows 10, type "task manager" into the taskbar where it says, "Type here to search," then open the task manager app. Or, right click on the Windows button and then click on "Task Manager."
Highlight your webcam if you see it's running. Click on End Task to stop it.
Malware scan in safe mode
You need to have a rock-solid, reliable antivirus program. There are several good ones that you can get for free and others that are worth spending a few dollars on.
You'll want to scan for a hacked webcam in safe mode. To get into safe mode on Windows 10, type "msconfig" into the taskbar. Choose system configuration, then boot and choose safe boot. Then you'll run your antivirus scan. Here are more things you need to know about safe mode.
Check your webcam folder
You might find that your webcam is being hacked if someone other than you is saving files in your webcam folder.
Go to the Windows start button. Click on documents, find your webcam folder and open it to see if a hacker is saving files there.
Prevent hackers from accessing your webcam
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Use a firewall
In addition to installing an antivirus program that will in many cases block malware that hackers use to access your webcam, make sure a firewall is installed. To do that on Windows 10, click on the Start button, then go to Settings and go to Update & Security, then Windows Security and make sure your firewall is turned on.
Virtual private network
You may have heard about VPNs. Simply put, VPNs disguise your device online so hackers can't access your laptop.
Your activity is encrypted and hackers who try to access your device will see an IP address that makes it look like you're in another city or country. It's incredibly important to use a VPN, notably when you're access public Wi-Fi.
9 million webcams wide open to attack, see if yours is on the list
This is scary. You may have a webcam that hackers can access in a snap.
You must check to see if your webcam is made by this Chinese company. The problem is, millions of these webcams have security gaps, including no requirement for passwords and unecrypted communication channels.