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View Full Version : Why no physical protection for laptop webcams?



Keyper7
November 20th, 2009, 10:39 PM
So, I was talking to some friends the other day about how Flash can have access to your webcam and how reliable the cam LED actually is in letting you know if someone is using your cam to look at you. We agreed that a very simple solution for the paranoid would be for webcams to have a physical cap over the lens which you can easily open and close, like normal cameras always had.

Then it hit me... this is not useful just for the paranoid, is it? My cam lens get dusty all the time, not to mention the risk of a grain of sand of something screwing up the lens when I close the lid (ok, ok, a long stretch, never heard about this happening to someone, but it's still possibible). A sliding cap would so simple to add to the cam, why no hardware manufacturer ever thought about it?

CharlesA
November 20th, 2009, 10:41 PM
Inconvience to the users to have 1 extra step and cost reasons more then likely.

FuturePilot
November 20th, 2009, 10:42 PM
My webcam has a sliding cover over the lens.

doas777
November 20th, 2009, 10:44 PM
for some strange reason, my webcam is covered with electrical tape....

linux-hack
November 20th, 2009, 10:48 PM
don't forget your on linux not on winhows ans its not that easy to spy on the web cam

Keyper7
November 20th, 2009, 10:50 PM
My webcam has a sliding cover over the lens.

Really? Name and pics, please.

Psumi
November 20th, 2009, 10:51 PM
I have a laptop without a web cam. I do not really see the need for one.

kyuubi777
November 20th, 2009, 10:51 PM
for some strange reason, my webcam is covered with electrical tape....

electrical tape is the best!! i love that stuff

doas777
November 20th, 2009, 10:51 PM
don't forget your on linux not on winhows ans its not that easy to spy on the web cam
after the fbi displayed the capability to capture video and audio off a phone while it was off, in a case a couple years ago (last big mob case?) I lost all trust in cameras.

Keyper7
November 20th, 2009, 11:01 PM
don't forget your on linux not on winhows ans its not that easy to spy on the web cam

Stupid user is stupid user. The OS is irrelevant.

julianb
November 20th, 2009, 11:16 PM
Inconvience to the users to have 1 extra step and cost reasons more then likely.

I can just imagine the call to tech support:

Q: my camera doesn't work. It just shows black.

A: take the cover off.

I'm one of those people who is often asked for computer help. I often tell people that whenever a piece of hardware doesn't work, you'll want to make sure it's plugged in.

FuturePilot
November 20th, 2009, 11:22 PM
Really? Name and pics, please.

Logitech Quickcam Communicate MP http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/435/4224&hub=1&cl=us,en

earthpigg
November 20th, 2009, 11:53 PM
for some strange reason, my webcam is covered with electrical tape....

i generally suggest my windows-using friends do the same.

Crunchy the Headcrab
November 21st, 2009, 12:32 AM
The webcam on my desktop has a slide down shield over the camera. I don't think the camera or microphone will even turn on while that shield is down, but even if they did, you wouldn't be able to see anything.

My laptop webcam could be on at any given time and I'd never notice. Oh well.

Keyper7
November 21st, 2009, 01:15 AM
Logitech Quickcam Communicate MP http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/435/4224&hub=1&cl=us,en

I guess I should've been more clear.

I meant integrated cams.

Old Marcus
November 21st, 2009, 02:11 AM
I'm sure the security services are very interested in a bloke in his forties staring at a computer screen all day, while occasionally going to the bog... :rolleyes:

NoaHall
November 21st, 2009, 02:14 AM
I'm sure the security services are very interested in a bloke in his forties staring at a computer screen all day, while occasionally going to the bog... :rolleyes:

It's not the security services that could use webcam access to the full potential. It's the hackers.

Frak
November 21st, 2009, 02:17 AM
don't forget your on linux not on winhows ans its not that easy to spy on the web cam


i generally suggest my windows-using friends do the same.

Flash is your greatest enemy. It's very easy to record from the Webcam using Flash without prompting the user using a few tricks. Linux is less at risk just because there's next to no support for many webcams. Thanks Linux!

Xbehave
November 21st, 2009, 02:41 AM
So, I was talking to some friends the other day about how Flash can have access to your webcam and how reliable the cam LED actually is in letting you know if someone is using your cam to look at you.99% reliable, the LED isn't just something you can turn on/off like keyboard LEDs it's on the powerline to the webcam so whenever there is power to the webcam it will be on (short of a hardware error)

Tipped OuT
November 21st, 2009, 02:48 AM
So, I was talking to some friends the other day about how Flash can have access to your webcam and how reliable the cam LED actually is in letting you know if someone is using your cam to look at you. We agreed that a very simple solution for the paranoid would be for webcams to have a physical cap over the lens which you can easily open and close, like normal cameras always had.

Then it hit me... this is not useful just for the paranoid, is it? My cam lens get dusty all the time, not to mention the risk of a grain of sand of something screwing up the lens when I close the lid (ok, ok, a long stretch, never heard about this happening to someone, but it's still possibible). A sliding cap would so simple to add to the cam, why no hardware manufacturer ever thought about it?

I completely agree with you man. Some type of slide in cover wouldn't hurt. It would provide protection from scratches and dust when you're not using it. And for the paranoid, no one can see you!

Frak
November 21st, 2009, 03:05 AM
99% reliable, the LED isn't just something you can turn on/off like keyboard LEDs it's on the powerline to the webcam so whenever there is power to the webcam it will be on (short of a hardware error)
Depends on the manufacturer. I have some HPs that have software controlled record indicators.

blueshiftoverwatch
November 21st, 2009, 03:05 AM
after the fbi displayed the capability to capture video and audio off a phone while it was off, in a case a couple years ago (last big mob case?) I lost all trust in cameras.
This (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0G1fNjK9SXg) is what he was referring to.

Frak
November 21st, 2009, 03:09 AM
This (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0G1fNjK9SXg) is what he was referring to.
I saw "Fox News" in the lower left hand corner and I thought:

"Huh, this should be interesting..."

Xbehave
November 21st, 2009, 03:21 AM
This (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0G1fNjK9SXg) is what he was referring to.
Don't trust fox to tell you what year it is, IIRC the FBI bugged the phones, they tampered with phones to allow them to do this, i don't know if it was done in software (our phone can wake itself up while off for alarms because it stors a wakeup timer in the "BIOS") or hardware, but eitherway they required access to the phone and as a result could have disabled the LED (but they could also have shaved down a camera lens to allow some light through)

tgalati4
November 21st, 2009, 05:39 AM
You can also detect keystrokes from a PS/2 keyboard through the ground lead in the power cord!

Electrical tape and Aluminum Foil Tin Hat are must-have accessories while you are learning to live with the bomb.

Exodist
November 21st, 2009, 05:48 AM
I just unplug my webcam when not using it. Simple enough..

doas777
November 21st, 2009, 07:08 AM
I just unplug my webcam when not using it. Simple enough..
would that i could

wilee-nilee
November 21st, 2009, 07:30 AM
for some strange reason, my webcam is covered with electrical tape....

One just appeared magically over mine, and the microphone to. ;)

SomeGuyDude
November 21st, 2009, 10:01 AM
Linux users are hilariously paranoid sometimes.

I'm totally sure hackers have nothing better to do than to figure out how to break into your machine, turn on your webcam without the LED light turning on, and just stare at your lumpy face while you play Farmville.

wilee-nilee
November 21st, 2009, 10:38 AM
Linux users are hilariously paranoid sometimes.

I'm totally sure hackers have nothing better to do than to figure out how to break into your machine, turn on your webcam without the LED light turning on, and just stare at your lumpy face while you play Farmville.

I guess sarcasm is not in your perceptions, to bad it is so much fun when done in a fair manner. ;)

Xbehave
November 21st, 2009, 10:53 AM
Linux users are hilariously paranoid sometimes.

I'm totally sure hackers have nothing better to do than to figure out how to break into your machine, turn on your webcam without the LED light turning on, and just stare at your lumpy face while you play Farmville.
Don't forget fixing the drivers, anybody who did that would be a true whitehat

3rdalbum
November 21st, 2009, 12:11 PM
My USB-connected webcam has some bright LEDs that make sure you can't be observed without you knowing about it.

You should check out the OLPC project; there is an actual hard switch for the microphone and webcam, and LEDs to notify you that they are turned on and in use. In addition to that, there is a mandatory access control system that means that a program can't access the webcam unless it asked for the OS'es permission at the time of the program's installation. If it didn't ask or didn't receive permission, then it can't get access; so it can't be taken advantage of by an attacker (unless they can also find a weakness in the access controls).

Keyper7
November 21st, 2009, 01:11 PM
This thread wasn't supposed to be derailed to a security discussion and the point wasn't about turning the camera off.

It was mostly about protecting the lens. Did someone other than Tipped OuT read my second paragraph?