Can someone spy on me via my webcam?
In the light of current events, more and more we ask ourselves this question: is it possible that people can take control of my webcam ?
In short, yes, and not just your webcam.
Why? Because the basis of access to any of your peripherals (phone, microphone, keyboard, webcam, etc...) is the hacker's initial infection of your computer with a malicious program (virus, spyware, malware). From this point onward, this malicious person will choose the use cases for your computer and its peripherals, including the webcam.
What can a webcam hacker do?
Hack your webcam and take pictures of you
Once your computer is infected, the hacker can take pictures at any time or at regular intervals. And as we will see in the information mentioned below, access is often used for voyeurism.
Access is also used on professional targets as will be presented in the following articles.
In other cases, this activity is put into practice to determine if you have left your computer unattended so it can be used without the risk of being caught, or to compare the person photographed with the user accounts found on the computer.
Hack your webcam to spy on you in real time
As you can guess, it's possible to follow your actions and live actions...For some malicious people, this may be of particular interest.
"Yes but if someone spies on me in real time, I will see a small light next to my webcam!". This statement is false since your system may sometimes allow you to enable / disable this indicator. There are online tutorials (quite complex) to disable the LED according to the target computer. In some cases, the victim discovers that they are being watched by noticing the light although by the time they realise it is often already too late. However, sometimes hackers manage to disable this small webcam light.
Record the audio from your webcam's microphone
Another use of your webcam, this time as a microphone rather than a camera, which is particularly relevant in the domain of corporate attacks. We will return to this subject in future articles.
Known examples of webcam hacking
Here are just some cases among others putting webcam hacking under the spotlight.
Miss Teen USA
This article made the front page of several American newspapers.
This teenager's laptop had been infected by a malicious program for several months.
Subsequently, the hacker contacted the victim to announce that he had private and compromising photos of the victim, along with evidence to support the claim. He asked her to take pictures and to film herself in inappropriate positions under the threat of sharing the images already in his possession.
The perpetrator was arrested by the FBI who also identified several other victims in the same case.
This example is a well known case among many other less publicised cases of blackmail by webcam.
Fans of the Black Mirror series have been shocked to see in the episode Shut up & Dance how man can be manipulated when his image and dignity are threatened.
Platforms for accessing and searching for webcams and IP cameras
There are platforms, some are well known (e.g. Shodan.io), others are hidden, which index access to webcams by IP address. Such webcams are easily accessible since they are protected by a weak password such as admin/admin or admin/123456, to name a few.
Such programs "search" the Internet for these clumsily configured or unconfigured devices.
Therefore, a relatively large number of people can access your equipment directly without the slightest effort to infect your computer or network.
This has given rise to numerous cases of household espionage, where viewers have been able to follow the daily lives of thousands of people around the world via their poorly protected surveillance cameras directly installed in the baby's bedroom or in the living room. For example live hacked webcams posted on YouTube by webcam hackers.
Another case & webcam hacking school
To finish this non-exhaustive list, we can mention a website (now closed) that has indexed and made available several thousand cameras in 250 countries including 2000 in France, 1500 in the Netherlands and 4500 in the United States.
In particular, this website displayed victims in their stores, gyms, town halls, and of course domestic places (bedrooms, kitchen, living room).
The following year, another hacker highlighted the camera insecurities and produced a manual, posted on a forum, explaining for the most novice of hackers, how to easily access numerous cameras and webcams.