You don’t need to put tape on your webcam
The media has recently embraced a photo of Zuckerberg and his computer camera covered with tape. They go so far as to suggest you should do the same. Here’s why you don’t need to.
You can’t turn off the camera light.
The scariest part about your camera is it recording without you knowing it. Luckily Macbooks have a little green light that goes on whenever your camera is on. It’s incredibly difficult to record without turning on that light. App developers can’t control whether it’s on or off and even researchers admit later laptop models are much harder to bypass.
Is it impossible? No, but if you only download software from reputable sources, you decrease your chances significantly.
What about your phone cameras?
If you are going to cover your laptop camera, be consistent and cover your phone cameras.
Security is never 100%, so remember that you’re carrying around a tiny computer in your pocket and it has two cameras and is connected to the internet. Even worse, those two cameras don’t have a light that goes on when they record. If anything, I would fear those cameras more than your laptop.
The reason for fearing your phone isn’t just about a status light. The App Store approval process can never fully protect you from hackers. The App Store tries their best to keep you safe, but it’s easy to hide malicious code in apps. The issue stems from humans checking apps before they go live and they can’t possibly check everything. They also don’t have access to the source code, so you can hide code that only runs when you signal it or after a certain date. That source code could even download extra instructions from the web, so it’s not even in the app when they check it.
You may worry about a random website turning on your camera. All they can do is ask for permission and you can always deny it. And if somehow that website figures out a hack to bypass the permission (also very hard to find) then you’d still see the green light go on.
We have checks and balances
We use thousands of apps that could be doing anything with our personal data without us knowing it. Luckily there are astute researchers and white hat hackers that investigate them for us and love exposing bad actors. All it takes is for one person to see something weird (like random spikes in uploading data from their laptop) and investigate it.