In the case of Cassidy Wolf, the computer science student who hijacked her video camera was a rare case, right? Wrong. Video cameras, nanny cams and microphones are easily hijacked by those focused on scamming unsuspecting computer users.
Jared James Abrahams, a computer science student, had hijacked the webcams of a few young women, including the current Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf. Abrahams snapped photographs of the women through the use of their computer cameras. He then blackmailed them, demanding more explicit material or they would be exposed.
The case has been the talk of the Internet in the past few days, due to the arrest of Abrahams and Cassidy Wolf being Miss Teen USA. The technology available today is great and yet it lends hand to other openings for crimes.
Abrahams spied on several other women. He is under arrest and the FBI has charged him with extortion. Abrahams is under house arrest, staying with his parents until the trial. He is only one hijacker behind bars for these types of crimes.
As computer users, we have to protect ourselves from hijackers and hackers. Unfortunately, it’s a factor that everyone needs to be aware of and simple safety measures need to be implemented to create a safer environment for the entire family.
How can you protect yourself from webcam and microphone hijackers? First, if you have no camera, you won’t need to worry about being spied on. For users who need their cameras or for those who have a built-in model, these suggestions can help create a safer web-surfing experience:
• If you have an external webcam and it plugs into your USB port, simply unplug it when not in use. It will be a hassle to remember to connect it whenever you want to use it, although it removes the possibility of anyone spying on you if there is no camera.
• Look for external webcams that come with a cover. There are many brands that have a cover that closes over the lens. If the webcam you own does not have a cover, you can aim it toward the ceiling.
• Laptops and newer desktops often come with built-in webcams. Ensure your computer security software is a full-blown security program that comes complete with antivirus, anti-spyware and a firewall to protect your system.
• Good Internet browsers will notify you if the webcam is being accessed. When using video chatting sites, a notification should appear, prompting the commencement of the chat. Normally you will need to enable the webcam and microphone before the chat begins.
• When your computer is in need of repair, make sure you hand it over to a reliable repair shop. Repair sessions would be a perfect place for the installation of spy software. Check for any remote access programs that you did not install yourself. LogMeIn, Splashtop, Team Viewer and other access programs allow users to log in to a system from a remote location. If you happen to find a program you do not recognize on your system, take it immediately to someone you trust such as a computer-savvy friend, relative or professional.
• When using wireless network signals, the security settings should be at an optimum for the highest security ratings possible. Use a strong password with the combination of lower and upper case letters and incorporate numerals to make sure it is tough to hack in to.
• Create different strong passwords for everything. Using the same password makes it simple to gain access to all of your programs once only one of them has been hacked.
• Each password should be created with unique words when not using number and letter combinations. For instance, if you are a dog trainer, the password, “doggieboss” would not be a good idea for a password. Do not use your social security number or phone number. Never use your address. Do not use words that can be related to you, your life, family members or your career.
• If you’re in the market for a new computer system, you may want to choose a system that has a notification light when the camera is being accessed. Settings for the webcam may supply a notification when the webcam is being used.