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I was very skeptical of the camera covers, but then through conversations with some of my co-workers, I realized that they weren't being used because people were worried about spies secretly turning on the camera. It was 90% of the time just peace of mind that their camera was actually off, instead of having to find the sometimes hard to see options in video chat programs etc.

Exactly this. I use one for these reasons, in descending order of practical concern:

1. I don't want to broadcast myself during a meeting when I'm not prepared, or perhaps leave a meeting open by accident.

2. If a bad actor does access my camera, I won't necessarily notice the indicator light, especially if I'm not actively using the computer at that moment.

3. I don't trust the indicator light to be permanently unhackable.

Right. And some apps like WebEx turn on the camera by default, which is insane but happens and until you click to turn it off, you're live.

Also, if you're using an external display, then how are you supposed to notice the green light on the MacBook sitting next to the display?

That Apple article is nonsense. I put a black tape over the camera and I know nothing including hacks can broadcast unintended scene. It's easy to remove the tape when I actually have to which isn't too often for me.

>Right. And some apps like WebEx turn on the camera by default, which is insane but happens and until you click to turn it off, you're live.

Not to mention apps that do it "right" like Hangouts that enable the camera for you to preview your video feed before you're actually live. Could be pretty confusing/concerning for someone who isn't used to an app (and when it broadcasts you or not) and sees the light come on. A cover takes that whole thought worry-pitfall out of the possibilities.

Yeah, It would be nice if I could acknowledge missed phone calls on my Mac without turning my camera on.

I believe it’s only possible with the FaceTime app, which turns the camera on when opening the app.

Tape? I bought 10 little plastic sliding cover things on Ali Express for <£2. Unless you're on a 100% China boycott (which I assume wouldn't permit a MacBook anyway) I don't see a reason not to use them. They're fine, permanent, had for 3 years and not fallen off or anything.

I use tape because it was already in my kitchen junk drawer and I literally never use the webcam on my laptop. It’s only a threat.

The sliding covers are fine but it’s just more effort to order one.

Post It flags for me!

stickers! i have the star wars death star over my camera.

Same on all counts, though I went a step further and wired in a microminiature slide switch to completely power off the camera. That way applications see "no camera" unless I go out of my way to power it on. I painted the "on" side of the switch in retroreflective paint so I can see when it's on at a glance too, whether the camera is in use or not. This was on a thinkpad though, I doubt macos would tolerate a disappearing camera.

It totally does, internally the camera is just connected over USB. (I can tell you it copes with a disappearing camera because mine disappeared a while ago and never came back)

Do you have pictures to share? Sounds cool.

Sadly no pictures of the insides. I'll give you a description though. I cut a trace on the camera module (should have cut the cable instead on second thought) and soldered in two bits of enamel wire that go to a slide switch. Clipped a little bit of plastic off the lid so the switch was accessible, blind-drilled two tiny holes in the lid for the alignment pegs of the switch to go into, and glued it in place. I then did the painting with a very fine brush under a microscope. The wires are routed around the camera module and the switch is to the left of the camera, in order not to interfere with the little LED on the right of the camera that illuminates the work area. The outside looks like this (I didn't bother cleaning up the cut-off plastic edge): https://imgur.com/a/UpB1dJn

I've actually been on calls when the person did not want to show their webcam (and I had never seen them face to face) and did not notice they were showing their webcam due to having several screens.

As long as you maintain physical possession of your machine, point 3 is moot, at least on Macs.

I don't trust their implementation of a hardware link that is both reliable and truly un-exposed to software because I don't have the expertise or time to interpret their implementation, and even if I did, I don't trust that nothing about it will become vulnerable in any MacBook model going forward into the future. I don't think point 3 is moot in any practical sense.

The only way to physically get electricity to the camera unit, to be able to get any data from it is to pass that electricity through the indicator LED.

Multiple teardowns have confirmed that it's a hardware path that software cannot modify.

See the several articles linked in this page about apple webcams/mics being turned on by hackers....

Apple is good, but they are not perfect

You’re posting this late enough to have had time to see that those are all about hardware which is a decade old.


Right, so as time progresses news comes out about said hardware being hacked. I think you've validated his point. 5 years from now we will see how today's cameras have been hacked.

This was a known weakness back then, not some amazing breakthrough, and unless the vendors are actively lying about the hardware there's no way for someone to “hack” the power connection without a soldering iron.

They are not, but these articles are for < 2008 Macs. On "newer" Macbooks it done by hardware.

I leave my laptop in my hotel room while I go out for dinner, so point 3 is valid.

If I'm going to dinner where I can't take my backpack, I put mine in the safe.

Can recommend. Physical security > *.

The safe that hotel provided for you? Agree that it's better than nothing though.

Safe is Probably worse than leaving in your bag

You expect someone to take apart the fused display assembly and modify the intricate power pins to both the LED and camera while you’re having dinner?

I hope you’re a billionaire with secrets because otherwise this is pure paranoia.

What about replacing the laptop and just cloning the content. I wouldn't notice.

The T2 chip in modern Macs is responsible for operating as the disk controller for the on-board flash, and encrypts the filesystem at rest.

You could copy some data over live, but there are also non-exportable cryptographic keys in the Secure Enclave.

You could more easily swap out the entire screen assembly with a ‘compromised’ version.

Or as other poster mentioned, just swap whole units.

... and of everything you will ever plug into the USB port on your machine, including cables.

How is any of that going to rewire the hard line electrical path?

That is what I like with the Lenovo webcams in T480s and probably later versions.

They have a small slider with the camera protection "glass" build in which can cover the camera and will "show" a red dot if it's covered.

This should really be the standard for laptop webcams. The T480 webcam cover is flush with the bezel and you barely even notice it because it's so subtle. One of my favorite features.

Wow it's actually really neat. Here's a picture if anyone is wondering:


Absolutely love that feature!

Yeah, I have the X1 Carbon and there is nothing that is ever going to make me as comfortable as a little piece of plastic that sldies in front of the lens of the camera.

Old Apple iSight cameras (the stand alone tube shaped cameras) twisted an aperture closed to block the lens. It was also how you turned it off and on.

Should still work on modern macs if you chain together a FireWire 400 -> 800 / FW 800 -> ThunderBolt 2 / TB2 -> TB3 set of adaptors. Off to eBay…

Current cheap ones have them- my daughter has one for college. She had to use it for remote college for the pandemic- but it was the first time we used the webcam on that computer. We used an external webcam a few times because we thought the internal one was broken, but the door was just closed...

Lenovo Yoga laptops have them too.

With regard to privacy, the microphone is 100x more sensitive than the camera most of the time, and it’s much harder to secure.

It certainly is, I have the option to

1) Block the camera and hope the microphone is on mute 2) Hope the camera isn't on and home the microphone isn't on 3) Not have the mac at all

Clearly 1 is better than 2.

Support for this kind of thing is entirely voluntary. You can short the mic pin to ground (or connect an external mic), and it will disable the onboard mic by default because that's what is expected, but there's nothing physically stopping the audio controller from reading from the onboard mic anyway.

It's a shame they don't have a USB-C one that looks like a compact USB-C YubiKey.

That's incredibly overpriced at $26.99 for what is essentially just a dummy input...

To be fair it’s a 5 pack

It seems to be something with a switch that disconnects one of the rings of a 4 pin. Easy enough, but $5 doesn’t seem awful.

Of course it doesn’t disconnect built in microphones, and with modern Apple phones getting rid of 3.5mm jacks it’s value is less.

At $5, most of the cost is almost certainly logistical.

From my understanding it's not just a dummy input and somehow adds noise because some computers won't pick up the input unless there's a signal.

This is just for external headsets.

No it's not. It's meant for any port, but this model has it's own port so you don't need to keep plugging and unplugging it. You can leave it in and daisy chain by plugging your headset or speaker into it rather than directly.

Internal microphones are not attached by such a port.

That's exactly it for me -

I'm in a lot of remote meetings, and wouldn't want to be accidentality presenting without expecting to.

I quite often accidentally turn on the camera without intending (usually because an app automatically turns it on) to. Having a cover prevents me from being embarrassed by an unexpected exposure.

I've always used a sticker (black dot-shaped) or a piece of post-it note. Post-it is really convenient but it's ugly.

I still think the best solution would be to have no builtin camera or microphone. Just have something like the iSight that you manually and thus willingly connect to your thunderbolt. Works with your external monitor as well and you can orient it the way you like. It would also have better overall image and sound quality (low light, more shallow depth of field, etc.). And on the plus side for Apple and its shareholders, it's another $499 essential.

This is never the best solution for notebooks though, is it?

The UI pattern of a button with a crossed-out camera/mic always makes me think twice: is it a status indication that my camera is off, or is the button's action to turn off my camera (meaning my camera is on)?

I cover my camera to avoid that 5s mental dance at the start of every meeting.

Yeah, I started using to LARP, but it's actually huge for peace of mind. When I'm in meetings and I want to make sure that nobody can see make butt naked, I place the webcam cover. The person caught peeing on a zoom VC[1] would never have happened with a webcam cover.

Also, I am really worried about microphones. I have 2 google homes, 6 siris (iPhones and apple watch), a portal, a number of macbook pros and airs, a PS4, ... any of these devices could be listening to me at all time :/

[1]: https://geekologie.com/2020/03/poor-jennifer-woman-takes-lap...

Until they take their laptop anyways and forget to slide the cover?

For me it's that I'm sitting here shirtless while I'm working, and I'm kinda fat

I have the same with my headset. It has a physical mute button for the microphone, which I engage as soon as I'm done talking in Teams or similar. It's a dumb switch, so instant and with no annoying woman telling me I muted. Being a dumb switch it's also tactile, so I can tell by feel if I'm muted or not.

That way I don't have to worry about my annoying my colleagues by my mechanical keyboard, occasional excess gas events or similar.

The Huawei Mate book X Pro has a key on the keyboard that when pressed flicks up a camera. When it is down it shows a black hole inside the keyboard. When it is up it shows a great angle directly up your nose and typing when in a video call shows your hands really clearly. But it is still an interesting way to do it.

A privacy feature on a Huawei laptop...

On my work laptop, my employer could conceivably turn the camera on to monitor me in some way. I don't think they would, but still I put tape over the camera because I don't want them to be able to do that.

I never really understood the point of camera covers.

If my computer is compromised to the point where an attacker can access my camera and microphone, information from my camera and microphone are the least of my problems.

It's a multi-stage concern.

Sure, someone could grab all my files, email, etc. That would be damaging.

But if I'm having a sensitive conversation in my home/office with someone and the camera and/or microphone come on, that could be damaging as well.

FWIW, I use a camera cover and Oversight[0] to tell me when an application uses the camera or microphone. It doesn't prevent it from happening, but at least I'm aware if something is going on. The weirdest thing I've seen yet is that the iOS Simulator uses the microphone.

[0] https://www.objective-see.com/products/oversight.html

Now I'm old enough that there's money in the bank accounts I access online, and I can afford a home big enough that the room I use my computer in isn't the room I get dressed in and have sex in, absolutely.

But if I was giving a computer to a 12 year old or 16 year old - what else is the hacker going to take? Their online gaming account?

Per OPs comment - it isn’t about a compromised system for me at all at least. If I’m in a video conference at 6am in my pjs I’m just a button click away from everybody seeing me. Camera cover let’s me know I can’t accidentally do this (and it has saved me on multiple occasions).

And I would really like something similar for my microphone - a physical switch. For camera I can glue one myself, but for mic it is not possible :(

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