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I think I understand the risk, and I definitely would not bother with such a switch even were it available. So maybe I actually don't understand it.

What exactly is the risk? Have there been any actual cases of someone being spied on with their laptop webcam that would have been prevented by a switch? I'm only aware of cases where the webcam switch would not have helped (e.g. roommate sets up notebook to record owner naked). Even that is incredibly rare, or if not rare, almost never reported.

A quick search seems to turn up quite a few examples of webcam spying. I'd love to see actual numbers, but it doesn't seem to be "incredibly rare".





This site claims a guy made a business selling software to hack and remotely control webcams, complete with paid employees and $350,000 in income:


OK. That has caused me to update my beliefs. I still think that there is relatively little risk -- like, you should be much more worried about being in a car accident -- but I no longer think it's on par with being struck by lightning.

Why would this be of little risk? The good thing about software is that it is automatable. That's also the bad thing.

Create a malware (which due to some big company fuckups can be even embedded in a webpage these days). Capture frames indiscriminately. Add some image recognition algorithms (from OCR to machine learning, depending on what you want to do) to flag interesting hits.

Voila. Massive dragnet. Applications can range from simple blackmail (a-la Black Mirror) to industrial espionage.

I'm not saying I can't picture it. Just saying it doesn't seem likely to happen on a large scale basis.

I get what your saying, that the personal risk is low, especially compared with say driving or heart disease. Heck, I'm a middle aged heavy guy and couldn't care less who sees my nudes.

But, I believe we (as technologists) have a responsibility to use and push for strong security practices. I don't want my kids to grow up in a world where creeps blackmailing them through their webcams is a possibility, or where a rogue politician has all the tools of absolute authoritarianism already set up and waiting for him.

A camera cover is a huge win. It's super easy and cheap (a piece of plastic), it's easy to understand (entirely mechanical), it works 100% when used, and it's failure modes are obvious. Not all security controls are cheap, easy, and 100% effective, but this one is. And if you don't bother to use it in your bedroom, then that's fine, but every webcam should have one.

Considering that there have been Trojan malware programs out there that can secretly take over a user's webcam since webcams became popular, I'd say it's a given that it is happening on a regular basis.

Also, there are many security programs that can seruptitiously take photos or videos using the camera. Usually this is to help in recovery after theft.

Here's a recent 0-day involving Macs and Zoom (or RingCentral): https://medium.com/@jonathan.leitschuh/zoom-zero-day-4-milli...

Which is an exploit, not an attack.

When I was in highschool people would do this all the time to each other by attaching trojans to files to gain access to webcams. This was the days of Windows 98, and security was almost non-existent for most users.

People would get someone infected, and then share the credentials so everyone could watch. So, I personally know of a handful of people that were spied on 20 years ago.

It's for when someone pwns root on your computer, you can still turn off video and audio recording physically and they can't spy on you.

The use case is that you leave them turned off by default in case someone pwns you, and only turn them on when you need to use them.

One use case is protecting against non malicious but unexpected use of the camera. For example when you want to join a call with voice only but the app defaults to video and voice. You can have your camera off and mic on and you know for sure you won't be unexpectedly streaming video.

A while back it was in the news that school issued laptops had their webcams remotely activated by administration during non school hours. So yeah there's been at least one case.

Well, yeah. There's a reason why built-in webcam covers / physical switches are much more prevalent on laptops oriented towards business/government users (cf Thinkpads).

It's more or less a feeling. Because if someone can activate your camera without you knowing you have bigger problems.

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