Want to stop the FBI spying on you? Just use sticky tape

Want to stop the FBI spying on you? Just use sticky tape

Summary: One of the Netherlands' top prosecutors is warning that PC users should prevent themselves from being filmed by hackers - or intelligence services - by taping over their webcam.

TOPICS: Security, EU

One of the Netherlands' top prosecutors has warned computer users to start using sticky tape to foil hackers.

Lodewijk van Zwieten, the national prosecutor for high tech crime at the Dutch Public Prosecution Service is advising all Dutch computer owners to put a piece of tape over their webcam, a measure he believes is the only effective way to protect people from being filmed without their knowledge.

The prosecutor made his recommendation in a statement on the Dutch Public Prosecution Service's website, in response to the trial of an 18-year old from Rotterdam, suspected of hijacked webcams of more than 2,000 computers in the Netherlands and abroad.

"Hijacking webcams has become a serious trend," van Zwieten said, "we shouldn't wait for manufacturers of laptops, PCs and other devices with a webcam to include a physical button preventing access to webcams. Covering your webcam with a piece of tape is the smart thing to do."

Victims have no idea

According to van Zwieten, webcam hijacking is becoming increasingly popular, because more and more devices have the ability to capture audio and video, making it increasingly interesting for hackers to secretly capture input from the camera and microphone.

"The problem is that victims usually have no idea that their webcam is being hacked. Advanced malware prevents the indicator light from being activated when the PC or laptop camera is switched on. It means that there is no way of telling whether your webcam is recording, meaning that the only way to be completely sure is to physically cover the device," he said.

Tape vs the FBI

In addition to being a protective measure against hackers, van Zwieten also believes that the need to cover up the webcam is not only confined to people who have not properly protected their computer against malware, but that each and every computer user with an internet connection is at risk.

"Late last year, it became evident that the American intelligence agency the FBI frequently deploys advanced, virtually undetectable malware to turn on the webcams of suspects without their knowledge." According to the Dutch prosecutor, his advice to cover the webcam with tape or a sticker won't be popular among intelligence agencies, but "the cyber security of the Dutch people is a greater priority". 

Topics: Security, EU

Martin Gijzemijter

About Martin Gijzemijter

Martin began his IT career in 1998 covering games and gadgets, only to discover that the scope of his interests extended far beyond that. Ironically, where he used to cover 'anything with a plug', he now focuses on the wireless world. A self-pronounced Apple enthusiast who can't live without his Windows PC, he writes tech news, reviews and tutorials for the Dutch market and stories about flying elephants for his two sons.

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  • Web Cams

    I use a 'golf sock' ;>]
    • lol?

      How the heck does that work?
  • golf sock?

    one with 18 holes in it?
  • I use the "don't have a webcam" method, myself...

    I'm not on facebook either. I am a dinosaur of the internet age, I guess. Really, I think there would be a market for webcams with built in lens covers.
    D. W. Bierbaum
    • You're not the only one

      I trust more my own intuition: don't use Windows, don't use Google and surely not Facebook. Works fine. And webcam? Never even planned to get it. I hate movements, i hate jumping to bandwagon. I don't even use smartphone at all. I don't want to pay to Apple, Google and Microsoft (gets 5 dollars / every Android-device).
  • Sticky tape is the ONLY way, is it?

    Pretty sure that unplugging the camera when you aren't using it works even better.
    • Not viable for laptops

      • Or AIOs

        I have been using Post-It notes for the last 7 years on my laptops and AIOs.
  • ...how about that smartphone?

    On a PC or Mac, did you ever right-click a Flash advert on a web site and see the disable camera/microphone option? I'm not paranoid enough to believe they're on, but the fact that the capability exists in the Flash software gives me pause to wonder how well they're protected. We've just seen Yahoo ads deliver malware, so it doesn't seem to be a big stretch.

    Then there are cameras on my smartphone, front and back. Gotta wonder how well that's protected, too.
  • That eye that we have pointed at you?

    That eye that we have pointed at you? The one on your laptop screen? Nooooo, we would never use that to look at you. That ear that we have right next to it? Noooo, we would never use that to listen to you.
  • 1984 - 30 years late?

    Remember that O'Brien was caught because, even though he only turned off his telescreen for the permitted 30 minutes each day, the "Thought Police" were still listening in...
  • Web Cams have Web Mikes

    Whilst taping over the unceasing Eye, don't forget to cut the wires on that internal microphone.
  • NSA uses our webcams too

    I turn the webcam on my laptop to face the wall, cover my phone's front facing camera, cover my tablet's front facing camera and ask both my sons to cover their XboxOne connect cameras when they are not actively gaming all due to the revelation that not only hackers but our own government likes to turn our cameras on (perhaps to turn themselves on). I do feel that hacking into my kids' Kinect Cameras makes the NSA a weird type of pedophile.