5 ways to protect your webcam from hackers

5 ways to protect your webcam from hackers

For the past few months, many of us have gotten used to working from home and trading in-person meetings for Zoom calls. But this shift to remote work has raised questions about cybersecurity — and if our webcams are secure enough.

We called on the experts at ESET to discuss the new cyber threats we’re facing, and how we can strengthen our webcam security while we’re WFH. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to strengthen your cybersecurity and stop hackers from accessing your webcam.


#1 Secure your WiFi connection

In the cybersecurity world, an open WiFi network is essentially the same as leaving your front door open. Criminals may try to hack your WiFi as a stepping stone to your webcam, so the goal is to make that network as impenetrable as possible.

To keep your WiFi connection safe and secure, work your way through these WFH cybersecurity tips:

  • Lock your network. There’s no need to offer free internet to other people, or give hackers an all-access pass to your WiFi.
  • Give your network a random name that doesn’t reveal any personal information. Your network’s name or Service Set Identifier (SSDI) should be obscure and general. Instead of calling it “John Smith’s house,” try “Turtleland” or “Lion’s Lair.” This adds an obstacle for hackers because they have to first figure out who’s behind that network.
  • Choose a strong password. The same principle applies here — the more random, the better! Try using phrases instead of singular words, and include numbers, capital letters and special characters. Aim to change your password every few months.
  • Update the security settings. To encrypt your information, go to your network settings and select WiFi-Protected Access 2 for your network (also known as WPA2). Then, pick AES for your algorithm.
  • Connect to a Virtual Private Network (VPN). These secure networks encrypt the data you send and receive and hide your IP address to boost your online privacy and anonymity. If you’re working from home at the moment, your employer should be able to help you set up a VPN. Chances are, they’ll be happy you’re taking cybersecurity seriously!
  • Enable your router’s firewall to prevent unauthorized access to your network. If your router has a built-in firewall, this will filter the traffic entering and existing your network and potentially shut down hackers’ attempts to tap into your WiFi. If your router doesn’t have this software, consider investing in a separate firewall for this extra layer of protection.

5 ways to protect your webcam from hackers

#2 Beware of phishing attempts

We’ve seen an uptick in email scams since the COVID-19 pandemic began, which isn’t surprising. While phishing emails aren’t new, the problem is more people are clicking on them. Click rates have increased from less than 5% to over 40%, according to Forbes.

Cybercriminals are opportunists, so they’re taking advantage of the anxiety and insecurities we’re all feeling by sending phishing emails posing as doctors and government officials, among others. We’ve also seen webcam access attempts in the form of emails asking people to download “coronavirus trackers.”

These emails often trick you into installing malware on your computer by encouraging you to click on links. Sometimes, they try to get you to send sensitive data, such as passwords and banking information.

So, how do you spot a phishing email, and what do you do with them?

  • Never open emails from unknown senders. If you’re not sure about a sender, look for spelling errors or strange characters in the subject line. And compare the email address to other emails you’ve received from that sender.
  • Mark suspicious emails as spam. If they’re work-related, send them to your company’s IT department for investigation. They’ll know what to do with suspicious emails.
  • Be wary of any emails asking for personal, sensitive and financial information. Let’s say you get an email from your bank asking you to change your login details. Call your bank to confirm they sent it before taking action.
  • If you do open an email you thought was from a known sender, don’t reply. Avoid clicking on any links or attachments, or downloading files.

#3 Install anti-virus software on your devices

5 ways to protect your webcam from hackers

An easy way to secure your WiFi network is by installing a sophisticated anti-virus software, like ESET Internet Security. This home internet security software has an advanced Webcam Protection feature that tracks applications trying to access your webcam. When an unwanted application tries to tap into your camera, you’ll get a notification — and you can choose to allow or block it.

Anti-virus software also protects your devices from malware and other cyberattacks. It scans your router for vulnerabilities and assesses devices trying to use your WiFi network.

While there are free webcam protection software programs on the market, we recommend investing in a subscription software. By doing this, you’ll have a multi-layered defense against any number of cyberthreats, and the peace of mind in knowing that your software is responding to new threats as they emerge.

5 ways to protect your webcam from hackers

#4 Accept all software updates

Speaking of software, be sure to keep yours up to date! It’s tempting to skip software updates when you’re in the middle of something, but they are crucial to cybersecurity, especially now when we’re all on our screens more than ever.

Software updates address security flaws and fix bugs so it’s harder for hackers to access your webcam and data. The reason why they pop up so frequently is because manufacturers release patches as they find vulnerabilities, rather than combining all security improvements in one big update.

They typically only take a few minutes to install, and you may need to restart your device afterwards, but it’s worth the effort.

Our advice? Activate automatic updates so you never miss another one.

#5 Cover your camera with tape

This trick is old-school, but effective! Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is famous for taping up his webcam, and he runs one of the most powerful technology companies in the world.

Look for a dark-coloured tape, like electrical tape. Otherwise, you can purchase a cover that’s designed for webcams. If you don’t have a built-in webcam on your computer or laptop, you can simply unplug it when you’re not using it.

Webcam check tip: Most modern computers have an indicator light, which goes green when the webcam is on. If your light is on but you didn’t turn on your webcam or open up an app that uses a camera (like Zoom or Skype), that’s a sign you’ve been hacked.

Protect your webcam with the right software

Check out ESET’s range of home security software online and download ESET Internet Security to secure your devices — and stop strangers from accessing your webcam.