Whether you have one that is integrated into your laptop or a separate portable one that needs to be connected, webcams have become a natural part of the onward progress of technology to the point where it is a piece of equipment that many people own or have access to.
It can be considered a necessity for many people who want to be able to contact those who are not in close proximity or conduct business with people abroad.
They provide an excellent way to keep in touch via online calls that allow friends and loved ones to be viewed in real-time. Though Skype may be the most well-known, video calling is available on many platforms and continues to prove to be a convenient form of communication in a range of scenarios.
However, if webcams are not specifically needed by computer users, it is necessary to consider how worried we should be about them.
Many people will argue that simply not turning the webcam on is sufficient to provide protection and cite the fact that websites need to request permission to use the webcam in any case. However, if you use the same logic when it comes to a house, that would suggest that if you lock all your windows and doors and never give out any keys, it will never get burgled.
Considering the fact that hackers have been able to gain control of the websites and data of some of the largest companies in the world, getting a mass-produced webcam is not going to prove difficult.
The fact that webcams are mass-produced means that a defect affecting one can affect them all, which makes them vulnerable and open to abuse to such an extent that one company was forced to recall their products.
Hacking allows someone who may not even be I the same country as you to gain external control of your webcam – even turning it on – in order to violate the privacy of your home and make a potentially large number of people privy to private information.
This has led to a worrying trend of a range of crimes, such as blackmail, using information that hackers gain from accessing images and audio without permission.
People who use webcams as baby monitors should be particularly concerned as those people that prey on children also has IT skills, and webcams can allow children to be covertly spied on.
There has even been an exhibition by an ‘artist’ who was brazen enough to display still images that had been gained from hacking the webcams of random people – even displaying images of children – without the permission of any of those shown.
Though it provides a link to the outside world from the comfort of your home or workplace, this is not necessarily always a good thing. The simple act of covering a webcam or disconnecting it entirely when it is not in use can help you to maintain your privacy and prevent the risk of becoming a victim of unscrupulous parties.
By bearing in mind that not everyone innocently uses the internet for the purpose for which it was designed, it is possible to easily protect yourself
against those who have bad intentions, or who are simply bored and don’t know how to put their IT skills to good use. Even if they have the capability of being able to hack into your webcam, if all they get is a blank screen, then they would have wasted their time and you will have peace of mind.
If it is an action that Mark Zuckerberg sees fit to undertake (he also blocks his microphone), then it must be alright for the rest of us.