MacBook webcams can be hacked to take photos and video of users without their knowledge, according to reports.
While most laptops with built-in cameras have a light that turns on when it's in use, hackers are able to do this without the tell-tale light, according to the Washington Post. Apparently hackers can use the camera and "deactivate the warning light."
The FBI has had the technology for years, according to former assistant director of the FBI Operational Technology Division, and now it seems that teen hackers have the ability as well.
In 2008, Apple computers prevented the deactivation of a warning light, but now it's easy to get around mainly because Macs are more complicated, according to research from Johns Hopkins University.
“There’s more than one chip on your computer,” Charlie Miller, a security expert at Twitter, told the Post. “There’s a chip in the battery, a chip in the keyboard, a chip in the camera.”
Hackers can get into the camera's chip and control it, including deactivating the light. One of the reasons the issue has come to light, aside from NSA spying reports, has been a case involving Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf and a former high school classmate. The classmate plead guilty to extortion after he was arrested for secretly taken photos of Wolf
dressing and undressing in her bedroom via her laptop's camera.
These chips, or microcontrollers, are easy to exploit and can cause more problems including overheating batteries until it creates a fire or an explosion.
The most common way to do this is the remote administration tool, or RAT, which is what was used against Wolf. While it was initially used to help administers modify several computers at once in a business or school setting, it can also be used to control another's computer across the Internet. Other tools are more sophisticated and are even marketed specifically for government surveillance.
How do you fight high-tech hackers? Apparently by using low-tech solutions. The only failsafe way to make sure no one's taking naked photos or spying through your computer -- place a piece of tape on the camera when it's not in use.
Published at 12:55 PM PDT on Dec 19, 2013