How to keep your Mac’s camera from spying on you, no tape required
It’s the staple of all hacker and government-conspiracy fiction, not to mention quite a number of horror films: You’re being watched through your hacked computer or phone or through a hijacked surveillance camera feed. And, unfortunately, this is well-reasoned paranoia in the real world, because to an operating system, a camera is just another file that can be read and relayed.
Earlier this year, in response to the news and to reader queries, I went into detail with a few ways you could disable microphone input in software and hardware on a Mac. Video is surprisingly (or not so surprisingly) easier to block: You can simply put a piece of tape over a lens. People using laptops in The Villages and all around Central Florida need to be aware that you can still use your camera without being hacked.
Security guru Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the ACLU, told an interviewer in August, “the best bang-for-buck when it comes to privacy…is putting a sticker or a Band-Aid over your webcam on your laptop.” That’s what Mark Zuckerberg did, and he also covered his mic—which, as I noted in the previous article, doesn’t help nearly as much as audio will still bleed through.
Audio and videotaping don’t lend themselves per se to mass surveillance, despite the NSA reportedly recording enormous amounts of phone calls and video sessions and using software to find words and people of interest. Even its alleged efforts represent a fraction of all conversations, much less when you’re not actively engaged in an online A/V conversation with someone.
Soghoian explained in the above interview the likelihood of you being spied upon individually, which is worth a glance. Most people are unlikely targets, but any activist, any member of a group that finds itself in the minority, and anyone who someone else might feasibly have a grudge against could find themselves in the crosshairs of audio- and videotaping malware or products.
Students and workers with equipment provided to them could also be monitored without their knowledge. The best-known incident, but absolutely not the only case, is when a school near Philadelphia revealed to a student they were watching him at home on a school-owned computer. The school district later settled for over $600,000.
So what you can do besides tape? Some new and existing software for macOS can help.
If you have questions and are in the Central Florida, Lake County area, stop in and talk with our computer expert about your concerns. We are located at 1314 W. North Blvd., Leesburg, FL 34748. Questions? Call 352-728-0602 and ask to talk with our computer expert.