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Facebook CEO tapes over his webcam. Maybe you should do the same?


June 22, 2016

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Facebook CEO tapes over his webcam. Maybe you should do the same?

Facebook really doesn’t want its Mark Zuckerberg to come to any harm.

That’s why they have spent over $16 million on bodyguards and other security services to protect their multi-billionaire CEO and his young family’s personal security.

But sometimes you don’t have to spend millions of dollars to protect yourself from attacks, as Zuckerberg inadvertently revealed when he posted an image on his Facebook page, celebrating more than 500 million people using Instagram every month.


Maybe at first glance you don’t think that photo of Zuckerberg at his desk reveals much about his attitude to computer security and privacy. But take a closer look…


Yes, as was first pointed out on Twitter, Mark Zuckerberg’s celebratory post reveals that the Facebook CEO has taped over his MacBook’s webcam camera and built-in microphone.

Most of us know these days that out laptops, desktop computers and mobile phones are at risk of being hacked – but many members of the general public are unaware just how easy it is for hackers to also hijack control of an infected device’s webcam and microphone to make their snooping even more invasive.

For some years there has been a seedy community of hackers who have got their kicks out of spying on young women surreptitiously through compromised webcams, recording them without their knowledge and then using the footage to blackmail victims. There is no doubt that the technique has also been used by stalkers and jealous partners to keep tabs on their victims.

Aside from the perverted sexual kicks that some may get out of these activities (it’s hard to imagine who might get a thrill from watching Mark Zuckerberg – whether he is wearing his hoody or not) the exploitation of webcams and microphones to secretly spy on others clearly opens up opportunities for intelligence agencies, and those interested in industrial and military espionage.

And if that sounds like hyperbole consider this. Two years ago, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed documents that showed the intelligence agency had plugins called GUMFISH and CAPTIVATEDAUDIENCE that hijacked computer cameras and microphones respectively.

This, combined with the fact that some researchers have found ways to spy through webcams *without* turning on the webcam’s LED indicator light has resulted in many professionals in the security industry taping over their webcam when it’s not in use.

And, in some cases, those who are concerned about their microphone being hijacked (which doesn’t have an indicator light to tell when it is activated) have also taken measures to disable its functionality too.

Paranoid? Perhaps a little. Most of us are probably at little risk of being spied upon via our laptop’s webcam and microphone. But if a security measure is as simple and cheap as a piece of sticky tape, what do you have to lose?

And if you’re the CEO of a huge internet company worth billions of dollars, well… maybe it’s best to be cautious.

Now, if only we could convince Mark Zuckerberg to be a bit more careful about his passwords…




Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s.

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