How to Secure Your Webcam in One Minute or Less

Make sure no one is spying on you through your webcam

A person covering a laptop webcam

adafruit / Flickr

Webcams are standard equipment on smartphones, tablets, and notebook PCs. Many webcams have indicator lights that show when a camera is capturing video. However, hackers can trick users into installing webcam spyware that disables the activity light with a software hack or by modifying configuration settings. So, even though the activity light is off, the webcam may be capturing video and someone on the internet might be staring back at you.

The Simple Solution: Cover It Up

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best ones. To be absolutely sure that no one is watching you through your webcam, get some electrical tape and cover it. If you don't want tape residue on the camera, use a longer strip of tape and fold it back on itself. The best hacker in the world can't defeat electrical tape.

Tape Over Your Webcam

If you want a more sophisticated approach, roll up a coin in the electrical tape so that the weight of the coin keeps the tape positioned over the camera. When you want to use the camera, lift the coin and fold it over the top of the computer screen.

If you don't want to cover up the camera, close your notebook computer when you're not using it or when you want to make sure that you're not on camera.

Scan Your Computer for Webcam-Related Malware

A traditional virus scanner may not catch webcam-related spyware or malware. In addition to your primary antivirus software, install anti-spyware software.

Malwarebytes on Windows 10

Augment your primary anti-malware solution with a Second Opinion Malware Scanner such as ‚ÄčMalwarebytes or Hitman Pro. A Second Opinion Scanner acts as a second layer of defense and should catch malware that evaded your front line scanner.

Avoid Opening E-mail Attachments From Unknown Sources

If you get an email from someone you don't know and it contains an attachment file, think twice before you open it. It could contain a Trojan horse malware file that installs webcam-related malware onto the computer.

1 Attachment in an email client

If your friend e-mails you something with an unsolicited attachment, text them or call them to see if they sent it or if someone sent it from a hacked account.

Avoid Clicking Shortened Links on Social Media Sites

One of the ways webcam-related malware is spread is through links on social media sites. Malware developers often use link shortening services such as TinyURL and Bitly to mask the true destination link which is likely a malware distribution site.

URL Shorteners Can Hide Malicious Sites

If the content sounds too good to be true or sounds like it's sole purpose is to get you to click it due to its appealing subject matter, don't click it as it may be a doorway to a malware infection.

Disable Your Webcam

If you're not planning to use your webcam for a while, disable it. While it might not stop a determined hacker, it will stop most methods of gaining control, since the malware used probably won't re-enable the cam or install its drivers.

The simplest way to disable a webcam is through the Windows Device Manager. Use the built-in search on the Windows desktop to locate and launch it.

Device Manager control panel in search panel

The Device Manager lists every piece of hardware connected to the computer by category. Webcams are usually listed under Cameras, but you'll also find them under categories such as Imaging Devices.

Logitech HD Webcam Imaging Devices in Device Manager

When you find your camera, right-click it, and select Disable device. Windows will ask you to confirm. You may need to restart the computer for the change to take effect.

Disable device in Device Manager

Remove the Drivers

If you're really serious, uninstall the webcam drivers. This will ensure that Windows has no way to work with the webcam. Again, it'd take an attacker actually rooting around in the computer to get around this.

To remove drivers, open Device Manager, right-click the webcam, then select Uninstall device. In the Uninstall Device dialog box, select the Delete the driver software for this device check box, then select Uninstall. Windows removes the webcam. Reinstall the drivers manually to get it back.

Uninstall button in Device Manager

If you installed the drivers from a disk or a download from the webcam manufacturer, search for Add or Remove Programs. Locate the device driver software, then uninstall it.

Uninstall button in Apps & Features