‘Camfecting’: Cybersecurity expert reveals 3 warning signs of a hacked phone camera or webcam

Cybersecurity expert Tove Marks from VPNOverview has outlined the top three tell-tale signs that your webcam or camera may have been hacked through ‘camfecting’, and how it could have happened.

What is ‘camfecting’?

‘Camfecting’ is when a hacker remotely accesses your webcam without your permission by using malware. The hacker could be recording or watching you unknowingly through your own webcam. Webcam hacking is becoming more possible with the modernisation of webcams and the abundance of software and devices collecting data from you. Virtually any device’s camera could be taken over and used to invade your personal privacy: your computer, tablet, and smartphone are all at risk.

For a hacker, gaining access to a webcam is as simple as infecting the victims device with a small bit of malicious code. If there is the slightest gap in the security of your device, a hacker can seep through the cracks and widen this gap to gain full access. With so many types of malware around today, you may never be able to find out where a virus or spyware has come from. Cybercrime is constantly evolving and you’ve got to keep up with all the latest developments to stay safe. Below are the warning signs that your webcam has been hacked, and some of the most common ways a hacker might gain access to your webcam.

Warning signs that your webcam has been hacked

It’s not always easy to know if your webcam has been hacked, and on other devices, it can be even more challenging. For instance, how do you know if someone is watching you through your phone? Fortunately, there are a few tell-tale signs that can give away a hacked webcam or camera. We’ve listed some of these signs down below:

1. A hacker or extortionist contacts you: This is the worst-case scenario. If someone approaches you and says they have sensitive images of you and can prove they do, it’s probably already too late. This happens in cases of sextortion, for instance. If you’re a victim of this online blackmail and someone is threatening to share sexually explicit images of you, and you know any such images are private, your camera might very well have been hacked.

Of course, there are plenty of spam phishing emails that try to use this tactic. If you receive a random email claiming they have images of you, but they provide no proof or details, it’s likely just another online scam.

2. A blinking webcam or camera light: Most webcams have a small light to the left or right of them that turns on when the webcam is in use. If you’re not using your webcam or camera, but the light is on nevertheless, this might be bad news. As for iPhones, this is signaled by a green dot on the interface if the camera and microphone are on. You’ll see an orange dot if only the mic is on.

Of course, it might not be a hacker at all, but rather an application running in the background that causes this. If you want to be sure, turn off all applications — in your Task Manager if necessary. If the light is still on, even though you’re not using the webcam, it’s best to do a malware scan to be sure your camera hasn’t been compromised.

Do be aware that even if the light is off you might be dealing with a hacked webcam. A webcam hacker might be able to turn off the light, or you might have turned it off yourself in settings.

3. Your battery gets drained quicker than usual: If someone hacks your device and its camera, they often do so to record without you being aware of this. This will require extra battery power. If you use a laptop or a smartphone unplugged from a charger, and someone hacked your webcam, you might notice a spike in battery usage. A battery that gets drained faster than usual can be a sign of a hacked webcam.

A good way to check how your battery power is being used opening your Task Manager. If you open your Task Manager you will see two columns on the far right that display your programs’ power consumption and power consumption over time.

How can a webcam become hacked?

1. Infected emails: Emails can easily contain malicious links and attachments that have infectious code built in. The sender doesn’t need to have complex code to gain access to your computer. Once their foot is in the door, even a mildly competent hacker could gain access to your webcam and other information on your computer. The same is true for private messages you receive from people you don’t know, such as Whatsapp or Facebook messages.

This is exactly why you should be cautious with attachments and links coming from email addresses or senders you don’t know. It’s also one of the reasons you should have a good antivirus software or firewall on your PC.

2. Visiting malicious sites: Hackers often buy a web domain that is very similar to the domain name of a popular website. Only their website has a small spelling change. Switch out one or two letters and you’re on a website that looks like the real deal but can quickly inject malicious code to allow access to your computer.

Links sent through email or over social media can also get unsuspecting users to land on a malicious website. All the hacker needs is for you to land on their site once. That’s enough to deliver the code that will open the back door and let them access your webcam. Such dangerous links are often sent out as part of phishing campaigns.

3. Contracting malware and remote access Trojans through torrenting: You could easily infect your device with a Trojan horse or other malware capable of taking over your camera, if you are not careful while downloading your favourite torrents. In fact, in the last quarter of 2021, there was a malware campaign in South Korea using torrents. Perpetrators concealed Remote Access Trojan (RAT) malware in a torrent that was supposed to be a video game for adults. Torrenting sites are also a hotbed for spyware, which is notorious for taking control of webcams.

4. Hacker poses as a remote PC technician: Anyone who has had access to your computer remotely can potentially come back later to access your webcam. Remote computer repairs are common. Technicians log on to your computer and address problems with your software or device without ever having to come to your home.

Even the best company screening methods will fail to catch every bad apple among employees. A simple bit of code left behind on your computer could allow the technician to access your computer and webcam again later on.

Also, be aware there are scams involving criminals posing as help desk employees, like Microsoft, for instance. Although these criminals are generally more interested in your financial information, it’s quite easy for them to get access to your webcam and files once you give them access to your device.

How to lower your risk of webcam hacking

  • Use a webcam/camera cover (with a slide for when you need your camera). You can apply tape or paper as well.
  • Keep your operating system up-to-date to avoid cracks in your device’s security.
  • Use a good firewall and antivirus to protect yourself from webcam-compromising malware.
  • Don’t open any attachments or links you don’t trust or that come from an unknown source.
  • Secure your WiFi network to avoid unwanted access to your network, devices, and cameras by strangers.
  • Use a VPN to keep your IP address hidden
Next post Expert reveals the top social media scams of 2023 and how to avoid them