In the recent days of cyber surveillance, people’s privacy is becoming less and less of concern under the pretense of increased safety and anti-terrorism and deep web security is taking a huge hit for it.
This has come to the point where law enforcement agencies have started to utilize the samse weapons as the cyber criminals they are trying to fight against.
For an average computer user, it becomes increasingly hard to be aware of all the vulnerabilities of their machine that can compromise their deep web security.
And despite the innumerable exploits being uncovered and documented every day there will always be ways for a cyber attacker to infiltrate an unsuspecting person’s computer.
One of the most disturbing possibilities that an attacker has when compromising one’s deep web security is the turning on a webcam or a microphone remotely.
There are many tools and software designed to gain access to other people’s computer data, and most of them come in with the built-in function to turn on the webcam remotely.
Since almost every laptop has these components built into them, it becomes much harder to prevent this, since plugging them out of said laptop is not an option.
Disabling them or shutting them off from the OS will not yield any merit to our deep web security, as they can be turned on regardless as long as they are physically connected to the motherboard.
The only way to disable them essentially is to cut the connections that run from them to the rest of the motherboard. This is not advisable even for people with good knowledge of computer hardware, as one small misstep can render the computer completely unusable.
Increasing Deep Web Security
An alternative method is to use a piece of non-translucent tape to cover the webcam and the microphone.
This will prevent any potential unwanted surveillance or at least the visual portion of it, increasing our deep web security ever so slightly.
The microphone is a bit trickier to deal with, you can also try to tape over it, but the protection it will provide will be poor at best.
In case of a desktop computer the microphone can be unplugged, but most laptops have integrated microphones and the only way to disable them is to physically cut their connection with the rest of the system.
One of the most media covered cases regarding this issue was in 2010 in the Lower Merion School District of Pennsylvania.
As it stands, all students of said school district were given a MacBook to help them stay in contact with the school and carry out school-related work better.
As with most laptops, these also came with integrated webcams that should have been turned off unless used by the owner of the laptop.
What would later be known as the “WebcamGate” scandal was started when one of the students of Lower Merion School District was disciplined for actions he committed at home.
As evidence to justify the disciplinary action, a set of snapshots from his school laptop were provided. This sparked an outrage and was soon followed up by a lawsuit for invading personal privacy and unsolicited monitoring.
Following the first lawsuit, more students decided to go to court which escalated into a case ending in a $610,000 fine to the school district.
It was revealed in court that more than 60 thousand snapshots were taken from the school-issued laptops over the course of 2 years.
The justification for installing surveillance software into the laptops of their students was that it was supposed to be used in case of theft or loss of the device to help locate them easier.
Another case like this was reported in 2011 when a couple from Wyoming rented a laptop from a major home appliance rental chain.
The justification, this time, was that the software was used in order to shut down the device in case of a failure to pay the rental fee or in case of a theft.
This could have been done without the need to turn the webcam on, which in turn caused a lawsuit for unlawful surveillance.
It is not always the companies or large groups that are involved in unlawful surveillance. In 2014, a guy called Jared James Abrahams was arrested for snapping nude pictures of Miss Teen USA using her webcam remotely and without her knowing it.
The photos were later used as a blackmail material until Abrahams was arrested and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
The software used in this case was called Blackshades RAT (Remote Access Tool), and its co-creator was arrested for its distribution and sentenced to 57 months in prison.
While Blackshades RAT was not created solely for remote access to a laptop’s webcam, it was most frequently used in this way as it is the easiest way to monetize.
The infection was usually carried out by clicking on a malicious social media link, or downloading free software from less-reputable sources.
The last and the most disturbing case revolving around webcam spying took place at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. The perpetrator Dharun Ravi was accused and sentenced to 30 days in prison for using his roommate’s webcam to spy on his romantic activities.
After finding out about the spying, Ravi’s roommate committed suicide, but his death did not influence Ravi’s sentence as it was deemed a separate instance.
This is one of the rare cases where unlawful surveillance has caused a death of a person, and it has stirred the opinion of the public regarding the issue more strongly than other recorded instances.
In the end, using camera and microphone as a surveillance tool for unsuspecting victims is used much less commonly than what one would think.
In reality, if somebody has gotten in so deep that they can remotely turn on the webcam, being peeped on is going to be the least of our worries. It is much easier and more worthwhile just to go through the victim’s HDD and transfer all the data from it.
Finally, the best protection for our deep web security is using common sense. Not clicking on suspicious links and thoroughly checking our downloads will provide a much better protection than taping over the webcam.