Protect your privacy from hackers: How to disable the webcam?

5 min read

Breaking a webcam is a simple task that some hackers use to spy on you without your knowledge. In this article I show you the precautions you need to take to protect yourself.

I know it sounds strange, but your computer could watch you for as long as it’s on. Disabling the webcam can, therefore, be a necessary operation to seriously protect your privacy and those who use the PC.

More precisely, some web voyeur could use the webcam to secretly spy on you or your children.

In this article I will explain what are the risks of having an internet connected that sets you without interruption and what practical measures can be taken to protect yourself by disabling the webcam.

How to disable the webcam: The threat is real and widespread

Webcams are very useful devices and are used by millions of users every day. Being able to stay in touch with friends and family all over the world, avoiding exorbitant international call prices is one of the many advantages of technology. But as Spiderman taught us, great responsibility comes from great power. The problem stems from the fact that webcams are almost always connected to devices that are themselves connected to the internet and therefore easily subject to hacker attacks.

In recent years there have been numerous reports and complaints about perverts who observed women in their homes via a PC or laptop camera. Unfortunately it is not even more difficult to violate a webcam since it is possible to obtain software and services on the Internet that can remotely access certain webcams without the need for any computer knowledge. Among other things we do not just talk about voyeurs because these techniques can be exploited by anyone who wants to gain an advantage over another person through dangerous forms of blackmail.

In the past it was possible to act quickly to defend itself as the activation of the webcam automatically followed the lighting up of a small green light. But even this signal has now been bypassed by almost all hackers. In short, the dangers are more than real, but fortunately there are some procedures that can be adopted to protect themselves.

disable the webcam

How to deactivate the webcam: PC settings

If you do not use the webcam often a good option could be to disable it completely through the Windows Device Manager. To do this go to the Start menu, start the search for “Device Manager” and select it.

In the window that appears you will find the list of devices on your PC. Click “Image Capture Devices” and you should see the webcam you are using.

To disable the webcam click with the right mouse button and select the option Disable. Otherwise for a more complete solution click on Uninstall.

Although this is a clean, simple and relatively complete solution, you should know that hackers with the right kind of remote access could potentially reactivate the webcam. An attacker might need more time, but sooner or later, if he has that goal, he would be able to gain access.

Also, if in the future you want to use the webcam again after uninstalling the drivers, you will have to reverse the process above, and it is not exactly practical. In this case you could consider the next option.

How to deactivate the webcam: Cover lens and microphone

Although technology has made great strides, there is not much to do if the webcam lens is obscured. For this reason some of the most important people in the world, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the current head of the FBI, use a solution as simple as effective:¬† apply a little ‘tape on the webcams of their laptops.

Even a piece of cardboard can be fine. A quick alternative to having to disable the webcam.

The advantage of this option is that you can remove the tape every time you want to use the camera, and know that when you apply it again your privacy will be guaranteed. Of course, it is not recommended to use stickers that are too powerful, such as electrician or packing tape that could leave obvious marks on the lens. The most economical, quick and effective solution is to use the sticky part of a post-it.

Be careful not to forget a fundamental element that can compromise your privacy: the PC microphone; which is often integrated into the webcam. If you use a laptop, the microphone is an integral part of the PC. If you’re not sure where it is, look for your laptop model on Google to find out exactly where it is. Once identified cover it with adhesive tape.

How to deactivate the webcam: Disconnect the webcam from the PC

If you use an external USB webcam, then the solution is really very simple. When you do not need it, unplug it from your PC. In this way you eliminate any possibility that an attacker can spy on your daily activity and take possession of sensitive personal information.

These simple solutions are precautions to be taken to avoid most of the attacks on your privacy, but unfortunately there will always be a number of ways that the bad guys can monitor your life online.

The most valuable advice I can give you is to surf the web always paying close attention, use an excellent antivirus  and never trust too much of services that do not know each other well. In case you first do a thorough search on Google. In extreme cases, where your security has been compromised, I recommend that you format your PC after a full PC backup.

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