Cover the lens on your laptop camera


Because many years ago my laptop camera light kept coming on inexplicably, I have had a piece of post-it note stuck over the lens of my camera lens long before I learned from Edward Snowden that the NSA and other people can commandeer the camera and use it to observe you and, since they can disable the light, with you being none the wiser.

Since then I have seen this form of spying depicted in many places, such as in the film Snowden and in the TV series Mr. Robot and Black Mirror and written about in articles here and there. In those cases, hackers are doing it for evil purposes, such as to blackmail people.

Hence I am still surprised that the need to cover the lens does not seem to be widely known. This is important. Even if you think you have nothing to hide, all of us do many things unconsciously as we go about our day, and perfectly innocent ordinary activities can be edited to make us look ridiculous and embarrass us enough that we would hate to have it widely disseminated.

Meanwhile, today Glenn Greenwald has an article about revelations, lost in the news about the presidential race, of illegal mass surveillance activities in the UK and Canada that have further vindicated Snowden’s actions.

So just this month alone, two key members of the Five Eyes alliance have been found by courts and formal investigations to be engaged in mass surveillance that was both illegal and pervasive, as well as, in the case of Canada, abusing surveillance powers to track journalists to uncover their sources. When Snowden first spoke publicly, these were exactly the abuses and crimes he insisted were being committed by the mass surveillance regime these nations had secretly erected and installed, claims which were vehemently denied by the officials in charge of those systems.

Yet with each new investigation and judicial inquiry, and as more evidence is unearthed, Snowden’s core claims are increasingly vindicated. Western officials are indeed addicted to unaccountable, secretive, abusive systems of mass surveillance used against their own citizens and foreigners alike, and the more those systems take root, the more core liberties are eroded.

Today, Snowden warns us that these government agencies and hackers can also get at our phones and audio and other forms of electronic communication.

But the least we can do is block the lens. Pass it on.

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Of (probably) more consequential misuse, “they” can just as readily hijack your mic too.

    In an earlier FTB dialog on this, I received the following good advice:

    … take an old micro jack from a set of headphones and insert the jack into the microphone socket (should be next to the headphone jack) and then a pair of dikes and snap the jack off fairly close to the machine case.

  2. says

    I have a Mickey Mouse Band-Aid brand bandage over mine. The gauze protects the lens while the whole thing sticks beautifully, and being Mickey Mouse I get to include a little whimsy with my well-founded paranoia.

  3. Crimson Clupeidae says

    It was practically a ‘throwaway scene’ in the Avengers movie, where SHIELD (the ‘good’ guys) were using “every camera, phone, laptop and public camera” to find Loki. Remember that? They do it regularly in the TV series as well.

    I am going to make (I have a 3D printer) a small clip on device for my and my wife’s phone that will clip to the case and cover both phone lenses.

  4. John Morales says

    I’d be more worried about the mobile phone (cell phone for you Americans) if I had one — it has a camera, it has a microphone, and it knows where you are at all times.

  5. Mano Singham says

    The mic on the MacBook Air is really well hidden. There is no visible jack. There are two tiny dots next to the sound output jack that I think is the audio input jack.

  6. intransitive says

    I’ve been covering mine for a couple of years now. And following someone’s suggestion (I think it was here), cutting off a cable and plugging the microphone jack to disable the internal microphone.

    It’s irksome that you can no longer buy a laptop without a webcam or microphone. Never mind paranoia about real or imagined invasions of privacy, not everyone wants to photograph or record themselves. I am seriously thinking about getting a tower for my next computer in part for these reasons, though mostly for the increase in power.

  7. Mano Singham says

    intransitive,

    While I do not photograph or record myself, I do use the camera from time to time to video chat with family and friends.

  8. HandyGal says

    I am a repair tech and I have had clients ask me to disable the mic and camera on their windows laptops.
    With their consent, I will disconnect or cut the cables to the mic and camera.
    I remove all drivers for both devices.
    I do confirm they are not going to ever use the mic or camera before I cut any cables.
    This solution is not for everybody, of course.

    On my personal equipment, I use Linux Ubuntu or Mint and I do not load drivers for cameras or mics.
    I wouldn’t use Windows at all, but I need it for my business equipment.
    My financial and CRM programs do not run on Linux, unfortunately.
    I also need to know how it works, so I can profit from the fact that it sucks.
    If it didn’t suck, then I’d be poor, or doing something else.
    More Network related stuff I would imagine.

    I see many laptops with their cameras covered over.
    If their were a product that disabled the camera and mic I think it would sell,
    Niche market? Or goldmine!!
    I should investigate this further.

  9. lanir says

    My current laptop is by a new supplier that includes a mic and webcam cut-off switch. These exist on other laptops but they are software switches – the camera and mic are still fully controlled by software and the switch is just another input. With the laptop I own the switch controls the power to the mic and camera (with a separate one for the wireless network – same deal, physically cuts power on this model, software controlled elsewhere). It’s not for everyone as it’s primarily designed to run Linux there’s nothing particularly weird about the hardware. If you’re technically competent you could probably install anything you like on it.

    Here’s a link to their site. I do like mine but I’ll let them do their own sales job. 🙂

    https://puri.sm/

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