FBI warns against people hacking into web cams
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- We have a warning for anyone who has a computer with a camera: Someone could be watching you.
It's estimated 170 million people use laptop computers worldwide. These days, the majority of those laptops have built-in web cameras. You may have never used yours, but odds are it's there.
"You don't even have to look for it as a special feature anymore. It just comes with the computer," CNET tech expert Dan Ackerman said.
"With the web cam comes the opportunity for people to use malicious software to control that web cam," said Justin Vellese with the FBI.
You heard right. Control your web cam. Let's back up for a second and think about where your laptop is used -- maybe in your hotel room on vacation, or in bed while you work at night?
"Being portable they can be used anywhere and can be put in places that are private, places that people might not want to be seen," Vellese said.
Now, imagine someone tapping into that web camera to watch you. With the light off, you have no idea someone is watching. It's happening everywhere. All over the world. And it's a crime that is growing, according to the FBI.
"It can grow exponentially, given the fact that this malware is somebody that's readily available on the Internet to somebody with a limited amount of education," Vellese said.
A quick search on google will reveal all kinds of information for criminals looking to hack a web cam. And not just the one in your computer, but any web cam. From security cameras to daycare cams, YouTube videos give them a step-by-step how to.
So what can you do?
"Make sure your firewall is turned on at all times and you have your anti-virus, anti-malware apps running constantly," Ackerman said.
A simple solution could also help.
"If you're not using the camera you can either disable it by simply putting a post it over it, or if it's plugged in via USB, unplugging that," Vellese said.
The FBI considers the crime cyber terrorism. If it happens to you, they advise getting help fast because odds are you are not the only victim.
The FBI tells us young women are the most targeted for this kind of crime. It also says parents should have a conversation with their children about what to do if someone contacts them saying they're being watched.
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