MacBook webcams can spy on you without any warning, research shows

Himanshu Arora

Posts: 902   +7
A research done at the Johns Hopkins University has revealed that it is possible to remotely activate a built-in laptop webcam without triggering the warning LED next to it, The Washington Post reports. Though researchers used the 2008-era MacBook and...

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Posts: 11   +1
I've always had this suspicion ever since watching Enemy of the State and the recent media attention of the NSA. I have multiple computers with web cam's and use a piece of card board to tape up. In addition, disabling your built in mic as it is just as easy to record your voice along with video. I only enable it when I need to use it which is rarely.

This also applies to Smart TV's with built in web cams.


Posts: 12,520   +5,881
Does the term hack, imply the default configuration is secure and that spying requires some local modification to the machine? If so then this is not so different than any other Mal-ware possibilities.


I've never used a webcam in my life, so I Alllwwayyysss place electrical tape over it.

Raoul Duke

It's been tape for me, but now I will have to check and turn off the mic if on.


Whenever I have a conversation near a laptop or webcam, I always make sure to make a reference to the NSA spooks listening in/watching. Call me a softie, but I like to let people know I'm thinking about them. It's a relief to know that they can readily observe the sincerity on my face when I mockingly detail my plans to [redacted] in private face-to-face conversations.


You cannot remotely reprogram a microcontroller. The article wording might be misleading for non-technical people. From this article it seems that, for the hack to work, the following steps must take place:

1. Your notebook's hardware must be reprogrammed. It does not say how exactly it is done in the article, but it would require low level access to the hardware at least. It is not possible to do it remotely, or in an unprivileged software.
2. You must manually install some kind of a program that would afterwards use the hack. No software can install itself into a Mac.
3. You must run the program, unless during installation it got itself running as a process, which you can always track using the Activity Monitor.

In other words, if you only use trusted software and let no spies near your macbook, nobody will be able to spy on you using the "no-green-light-web-cam-hack".

On a side note... It would be really boring to watch me code all day. I suppose it would reach #1 in the "most boring spying video" charts.