Laptops, smartphones and tablets – most of today’s smart devices come with a built-in camera. Thanks to technological advances, it doesn’t matter if your friend lives down the street or on the other side of the world, their webcam lets you have an (almost) face-to-face chat anytime.
Video calls, selfies, vlogging, and the little lenses in our phones and computers make staying in touch as easy as it gets – a freedom especially enjoyed by kids and teens. But it’s not just human relationships that benefit from this technology – crooks have quickly taken advantage of what can be misused as spying devices conveniently placed on their victims’ tables or carried in their pockets everywhere they go.
And just like that, what might have seemed paranoid in the past is proving to be perfectly reasonable today – a few years ago, when Mark Zuckerberg got photographed with his laptop in the background with its webcam taped over, no one thought he was overreacting.
On the contrary, cautious use of webcams is advisable, as any connected device is a potential target for attackers. Using malicious code, crooks can try to hack into a chosen device and misuse its camera or microphone for their own purposes.
In such a way, attackers can turn the camera on and off without the victims’ knowledge, spying on the most intimate aspects of their lives. The motivations vary – some find the very idea of secretly watching someone exciting, others are aiming to extort money from their victims. If the victim doesn’t do or pay what their spies demand, videos or pictures of them get posted online.
Surely the concept alone sends chills down your spine, even without imagining that the attackers could try to take advantage of children. As a cautious parent, here is what you can do to help:
- Teach your children to cover up their webcam when they are not using it. That way, even if hacked, it becomes mostly useless to the crooks.
- Make sure that the default setting of your children’s webcams is “off“.
- Use a reliable up-to-date internet security solution capable of protecting webcams on a software level.
- Make sure your children do not put webcams or smart devices with cameras in places where they might be misused to record intimate situations.
- Educate your children not to do anything in front of an uncovered webcam that they wouldn’t do if someone was watching.