Do I need to cover my laptop webcam?

Cover laptop webcam
Do you have to take the duct tap option?

Back in the halcyon days of 2016, Facebook posted a seemingly innocuous photo of Everyone’s Favourite CEO™ Mark Zuckerberg on Instagram. However, as Twitter user Chris Olson pointed out, the snap included an intriguing detail…

For many, the fact that Zuckerberg chose to cover his laptop’s webcam was proof that the scare stories were true: the CIA/FBI/MI5/Big Brother/Reptilians/Illuminati are watching our every move. For others, the piece of tape symbolised the overblown paranoia surrounding the internet. “Who in their right mind,” they argued, “would want to watch me vegetating in front of Netflix for hours on end?”

But who was right? Should we all be covering our cameras, blocking our mic jacks, using VPNs, speaking in Cold War-style code words and constantly looking over our shoulders? In a word, nope.

If you’re, for example, Edward Snowden, former FBI director James Comey or indeed Mark Zuckerberg, it’s likely that there are plenty of people who want to monitor what you’re doing – and potentially do you harm. In that case, breaking out the gaffer tape is a cost-effective way of making sure you can’t be seen easily.

If, on the other hand, you’re an office worker from Loughborough (a place I picked completely at random…), there’s very little incentive for hackers to blackmail you with “candid” pictures or for the security services to keep a close watch on you. Sorry.

Here are a few simple, and far less dramatic, steps you can take if you’re still worried…

How to protect your privacy

  • Keep your laptop closed when you’re not using it
  • By all means cover the webcam with Blu-tack
  • Take laptops out of bedrooms – including your children’s – as you approach bedtime
  • Be wary of opening any email attachments from unknown contacts. If clicked, these could install aptly named RAT (remote administration tool) software onto your laptop, which can give a nefarious person access to your webcam
  • Keep your antivirus software up to date
  • If you’re running Windows, keep installing updates
  • Don’t do anything too revealing in front of the webcam…

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About the author

Max Figgett

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