In the age of streaming, video conferencing and FaceTime, cameras come standard on most laptops, smartphones and tablets. Today, a face-to-face chat is possible anytime, anywhere—whether your friend lives down the street or on the other side of the world.

As convenient and fun as video calls, selfies and TikTok videos might be, the little lenses in our phones and computers are not without vulnerabilities. Webcams can be hacked, commandeered and misused. They can be turned into built-in spying devices that victims carry around everywhere they go. 

In addition, many apps automatically access your webcam when you download them – often, without you being aware of it.

What was once considered extreme paranoia went mainstream when, a few years ago, Mark Zuckerberg was photographed with his laptop in the background with its webcam taped over. 

 

What do hackers want with your webcam or phone camera?

Hackers and bad actors want access to cameras so they can spy, or collect damaging audio and video that they can use to extort people for financial gain. Because the information gleaned from a compromised camera can be so sensitive, these incidents can prove to be very public and very embarrassing.

 

Tips for keeping webcams safe

It’s scary to think about hacked cameras and webcams, especially for parents. Luckily, there are some best practices you can follow to keep your kids’ cameras safe: 

  • Use an internet security solution capable of monitoring and protecting webcams on the software level. ESET Smart Security Premium and ESET Internet Security both offer webcam protection. Webcam protection in your ESET Windows product informs you about processes and applications that are attempting to access your computer's web camera. 

When an application requests access your webcam, you will receive a notification where you can select “allow” or “block” access. You can set rules to always block, always allow, or ask you for your preference each time an app attempts to access the camera. 

  • When the webcam isn’t being used, cover it up. That way, even if hacked, the camera is  mostly useless to crooks.
  • Set default settings to “off” for startup and applications. This way, the camera won’t be inadvertently turned on without your kid noticing.
  • Do not put webcams or smart devices with cameras in private places such as bathrooms or bedrooms where they might be misused to record intimate situations.
  • Remind kids never do anything in front of an uncovered webcam that you wouldn’t do if someone was watching.
  • Set a good example by applying the same standards to yourself. Follow the same rules above for all devices throughout your household.