How to Secure Your Webcam in One Minute or Less

Make sure no one is spying on you through your webcam

A woman covering her laptop webcam

adafruit/Flickr

From smartphones and tablets to notebook PCs, webcams seem to be standard equipment these days. Just about every device we use has a camera on it. Did you ever stop to think that while you're staring at your screen, someone on the Internet might be staring back at you?

The national news is awash in stories about hackers tricking users into installing webcam spyware.

Many webcams on notebook computers have indicator lights on them that let you know when your camera is actively capturing video. It may be possible (on some cameras) to disable the activity light through software hacks or modifying configuration settings. So, just because you don't see an activity light on doesn't mean that your webcam isn't still capturing video.

The Simple Solution: Cover It Up

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best ones. If you want 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 any tape residue on your camera then you can use a longer strip of tape and fold it back on itself. Not even the best hacker in the world can defeat electrical tape.

Tape Over Your Webcam

If you want to get a little more sophisticated, you can roll up a coin in the electrical tape so that the weight of the coin helps the tape stay positioned over the camera. When you want to use the camera, just lift the coin up and fold it back over the top of your computer screen.

There are many other creative solutions that our readers have come up with and posted to our blog site. Maybe someone out there will start a Kickstarter project and come up with a solution that can be sold to the masses.

If you don't want to mess with covering up your camera, just make a habit of closing 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 always catch webcam-related spyware or malware. In addition to your primary antivirus software, you may want to install anti-spyware.

Malwarebytes on Windows 10

We​ also recommend augmenting your primary anti-malware solution with a Second Opinion Malware Scanner such as ​Malwarebytes or Hitman Pro. A Second Opinion Scanner acts as a second layer of defense and will hopefully catch any malware that may have 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 as it may contain a Trojan horse malware file that could install webcam-related malware onto your computer.

Don't Open Untrustworthy Email

If your friend e-mails you something with an unsolicited attachment, text them or call them to see if they really sent it on purpose 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 try and mask the true destination link which is likely a malware distribution site.

URL Shorteners Can Hide Malicious Sites

If a link's content sounds too good to be true, or sounds like it's sole purpose is to get you to click it due to it's appealing subject matter, it is best to steer clear and not click on 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, you can always disable it. While it might not stop a really determined hacker, it will stop most methods of gaining control, since the malware used probably won't try to re-enable the cam or install its drivers.

Open the Windows Device Manager

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

The Windows 10 Device Manager

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

Disable Your Webcam

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

Remove the Drivers

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

Uninstall Your Webcam Drivers

Back in the Device Manager, locate your webcam again, and right click it like before. This time, select Uninstall device. Windows will ask you if you're sure. In that window, you'll see a check box asking if you want to remove the drivers too. Check it, and confirm. Windows will completely remove your webcam. You'll need to reinstall your drivers manually to get it back. It's a bit extreme, but if want to be absolutely certain, it works.

Uninstall Webcam Drivers

If you installed the drivers from a disk or a download from the webcam's manufacturer, you'll need to search for Add or Remove Programs. Locate your device's driver software, and uninstall it.