Is someone spying on you with your own web cam?

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Many people use Skype or engage in video chats using a camera on their laptops. Many may be at risk, and someone may be watching.

Consider this story as your web cam warning.

“You don't even have to look for it as a special feature anymore. It just comes with the computer”, said Senior Editor with Dan Ackerman.

“With the web cam comes the opportunity for people to use malicious software to control the web cam,” said Justin Vellese with the FBI Cyber Unit.

You read that right. Someone else can control your web cam wherever you are. It could be in your bed or in a hotel room.

“Many laptops now have 3g or wireless capabilities built into them, so being portable they can be used anywhere and can be put in places that are private, places that people might not want to be seen,” said Vellese.

Now, imagine someone tapping into that web camera to watch you.

“They're hacking in? Remotely? Into your computer, and able to watch you?" asked one computer user.

“That makes me a little bit nervous, actually,” said another user.

“That's a major security issue,” said a third computer user.

Experts say it's happening.

“There is malicious software that can turn on the web cam. Turn it off. It's possible they can even turn off the light that indicates the web cam is on,” said Vellese.

With the light off, you may have no idea someone is watching.

It's happening all over the world, and the FBI says it's a crime that is growing.

“It can grow exponentially, given the fact that this malware is readily available on the internet to somebody with a limited amount of education. They don't have to be a computer programmer,” said Vellese.

With a quick Google search you can find all kinds of information about hacking a web cam, and not just your computer, but any web cam, including daycare cams.

YouTube videos give them a step-by-step how to.

So what can you do?

“Make sure your firewall is turned on at all times and you have your anti-virus, anti-malware apps running constantly,” said Ackerman.

A simple solution could also help.

“If you're not using the camera you can either disable it by simply putting a "Post It" note over it or if it's plugged in via USB, unplugging it,” said Vellese.

The FBI considers the crime cyber terrorism, so if it happens to you, experts recommend getting help fast, because odds are, you are not the only victim.

“It's important to be able to reach out to law enforcement,” said Vellese.

Vellese also said young women are the most targeted for this kind of crime.

Experts advise parents to keep computers in open areas of the home and talk to your kids about the dangers.


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