Can a Webcam be hacked? & How to tell

It’s the horror scenario of many laptop and PC owners: A hacker gains access to the webcam of one’s own computer and can suddenly see everything the camera sees – without you noticing it yourself! And what if he were to publish the footage or even use it for blackmail? 

But can hackers really take over your computer remotely and start your webcam unnoticed? And if so, how do you protect yourself? We want to get to the bottom of these questions for you today. 


Short Answer

Yes, webcams can be hacked. For many hackers, it is even easier to access other people’s computers and spy on the behavior or lifestyle of the owners without being noticed. In hacker circles, this procedure is called cam jacking.


Long Answer

You have briefly learned that webcams can be hacked. Now we would like to deepen this knowledge. For this purpose, we will explain how hackers act, how you can recognize a hack, and how you can protect yourself from it.


How does the Hacker gain Access to the Webcam?

Whether an attacker succeeds and how fast it happens depends on how well the computer is protected against hacker attacks and how strong the protective passwords are. One possibility for hackers to gain access to your PC and thus to your webcam is that you have unknowingly loaded malware (harmful programs, such as viruses or Trojans) onto your PC. This happens especially often on dubious websites such as illegal streaming or file-sharing portals, downloads of free programs on unsafe sites, or clicking on a contaminated link in an email.

With the help of the malware, the hacker then gains access to your PC. There he can install programs to remotely control computers. This gives him access to the entire operating system, including microphones and webcams.

Most people only realize that they have downloaded a virus onto their computer when it is already too late because the software they actually wanted may still work smoothly. Still, in the background, the hacker can control the entire computer.


How to tell if my Webcam is hacked

Here’s how you can find out if your webcam has been hacked:


#1 Check the Webcam Light

Malware controls your camera as if you were operating it manually. Unfortunately, it is possible not to know if your computer has a malware infection. One sign that malicious software might control your webcam is a randomly flashing LED light. If you notice this behavior, restart your computer and watch the camera’s LED for a few minutes. If it blinks again, it has probably been hacked.

However, your webcam may have been hacked without the light flashing. Some hacker tools have the ability to use the webcam without the indicator LED flashing.


#2 Check for suspicious Processes on your PC

Open your Task Manager, click on “Processes” and look for “winlogon.exe”. If you see more than one copy of this program, disconnect the computer from the Internet and run a full system scan with your antivirus program because your computer might be infected.

The same applies in case your webcam process is running without you using your webcam. In that case, you should disconnect the PC from the Internet and restart it. If the webcam process is also activated during the restart, it could be that the program only has an autostart, and no hack is present.


#3 Try to use your Webcam

Try to use your webcam. If you receive an error message that the webcam is already in use, this is a sign of a hack.


#4 Check for Webcam Files on your PC

If your webcam is used by a hacker, he usually takes pictures or records videos. In some cases, these are first stored locally on your PC. Therefore, check if any unusual videos or pictures have been stored on your PC with your webcam lately.


How can I protect myself / my webcam?

After you have detected a hack, you should clean your PC from the virus/malware using an antivirus program. To prevent this from happening, you should protect yourself and your webcam from being hacked. Use the following tips:


#1 Use a reliable antivirus

Current antivirus programs form a solid defense network against hacker attacks and should actually be part of the basic equipment of every computer. Unfortunately, many users still make it easy for attackers because they do not use an active antivirus program. The antivirus program should also always be up to date, i.e., regularly updated, in order to always guarantee the greatest possible security.


#2 Activate your Firewall

All computers are equipped with a firewall that can prevent unauthorized access, but you may need to activate it manually first. In any case, you should do that before surfing the Internet!


#3 Cover your webcam

The supposedly most effective way to avoid being observed by your webcam is, of course, taping off the camera. If it is explicitly only about that no unauthorized footage of me is created, then yes – a bit of tape, or even better a plaster that does not stain the lens, protects against unwanted observers.

However, this does not solve the actual problem. The hacker can no longer see anything via the camera but still has full control over the computer. That means he can access data from online banking, important documents, or even the built-in microphone.


#4 Deactivate your Webcam

You can disable your webcam instead of using a cover:

  1. “Run” function:
    Press the Windows key and “R” simultaneously. The “Run” function will open.
  2. Device Manager:
    Enter “devmgmt.msc” here and press OK. Now the device manager opens.
  3. Image processing devices
    In the Device Manager, search for “Image processing devices”. After clicking on the category, the name of your camera should already appear here.
  4. Disable/Uninstall:
    Right-click on your camera to either disable or even uninstall it.
  5. Activate/Install:
    In the same way, you can activate or install the camera again.


#5 Watch out on the Internet

We always recommend keeping an eye out on the Internet! As mentioned before, many users catch a virus by downloading programs from third-party providers. Especially if the structure or design of a website seems dubious, if it contains many spelling mistakes, or if it offers obviously illegal content (new movies, games, etc.), you should never download files there. Also, stay away from links in dubious emails, where you cannot judge whether the sender is authentic or not.


#6 Use a safe Windows Password

Choose a strong password for your computer. Insecure passwords such as 123456 or date of birth are straightforward for hackers to crack and are the easiest means of gaining access or extensive rights on a PC.


#7 Update your Software

Keep your operating system, browser, and software up to date.


Conclusion – Can a Webcam be hacked?

It is easy for criminal hackers to access other people’s computers and activate the webcam there – if they are not sufficiently protected. Fortunately, protecting yourself is not difficult: we recommend a mixture of duct tape, a good antivirus program, and caution when surfing the Internet, especially before downloading files. The residual risk of an attack on the computer always remains, of course, but if you follow these tips, you should be relatively safe.


Passionate author at Loves science and books. In a relationship with her cats.

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