27 Jan 2011

Experts warn users about spying webcams

Security experts have warned computer users with webcams that they may be in danger from hackers.

If a hacker is able to gain access to a computer, they can breach the PC’s hard drive to steal passwords. If the computer has a webcam, which many do, the hacker can begin spying on unsuspecting victims by turning the camera on and off, taking pictures and watching every move the user makes.

People who use online instant messaging are at greater risk from hackers. People who are not using webcams are advised to unplug them, while some offer privacy shields that slide across the lens.

"With many home users keeping poorly defended PCs in their bedroom, there is considerable potential for abuse," said senior technology consultant, Graham Cluley. "The message is simple - keep your PC protected against the latest threats with anti-virus software and firewalls, and if in any doubt unplug your webcam when you're not using it."

In 2004, the W32/Rbot-GR was a major problem for Microsoft security. Also known as the “Peeping Tom” virus, it was able to install backdoor Trojans. Although that problem was patched, new versions of the bug are released all the time.