If you’ve ever had doubts about whether your webcam is being used to spy on you. Then let us be the first to tell you that in today’s world that’s not such a crazy idea as it once was. So for that very reason we’ve put together a guide on how to tell if your laptop camera has been hacked.
We’ve outlined some common and easy to execute tasks that you can do to check if the camera on your laptop has been compromised. These include:
- Check your laptop’s webcam light
- Error message when trying to use webcam
- Check Task/Activity Manager processes
- Check your browser
- Run an antivirus/malware scan
There have been countless reports of people’s laptop cameras being hacked. Once hackers gain access to the camera they record sensitive/personal information of the person in question and use that footage to blackmail them.
In addition to looking at ways to check if your laptop camera has been hacked, we’ve also outlined methods on how to prevent future hacks through the following methods.
- Cover your laptop camera
- Avoid using public WiFi
- Enable your Firewall
- Run regular antivirus/malware scans
- Avoid falling for traps on the internet
How To Check If Your Laptop Camera Has Been Hacked
Check Your Laptop’s Webcam Light
Whenever your laptop webcam is in use, the little LED light placed next to the webcam usually illuminates in a red/yellow/blue. If your not using any application/website that is currently using your webcam and you see this light turn on.
This is the first indication that the webcam on your laptop has been hacked. If you see the light pulsating that could mean that the webcam is being used to record video.
Restart your laptop to see if this issue goes away. If it returns a little while after restarting then there could be software running on your laptop in the background that automatically takes control on the camera on startup.
However sometimes if your laptop is a few years old, that LED light might have burned out. So even if the webcam is being used you’d never know if it was hacked in the first place.
Error Message When Trying To Use Webcam
Try launching another program such as Skype, or a picture application on your laptop. Open the feed on your webcam from it. If you get an error stating that the current program cannot access the webcam because it is already in use by another program that could be a red flag.
Quickly review the applications that you have open on your laptop to see if any of them could be using your laptop camera. Restart your laptop, and don’t open any other application and check if you still get this error.
Check Task/Activity Manager Processes
Task manager can be a great way to check if there are any suspicious looking apps that may be running within the background accessing your laptop camera.
Task Manager (Windows)
Step 1: Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to launch Task Manager
Step 2: Click on Processes on the top menu
Step 3: Click on Network, and make sure the arrow next to it is pointing downwards. This will arrange the current apps in terms of network speed being used in descending order
Step 4: Check for any applications that might be using an unusual amount of network data. Each applications current allocated network speed will be displayed
Step 5: Scan through the current open applications list to find any unusual processes
Step 6: Click on App History in the top menu
Step 7: Click on Network and make sure the arrow above it is pointing downwards
Step 8: From here you can view the applications that have been using the most data
Step 9: During this process if you find any apps/processes that don’t belong, be sure to get delete them
Activity Monitor (macOS)
Step 1: Click on Finder from the dock
Step 2: This is the layout your greeted with
Step 3: Click on Applications from the left hand side menu
Step 4: Type activity into the search bar
Step 5: Click on Activity Monitor that pops up in the search results
Step 6: This is the layout your greeted with
Step 7: Click on Network in top hand menu
Step 8: Click on Sent Bytes, make sure the arrow is pointing downwards next to it
Step 9: Applications are now listed in descending order of network activity
Check Your Browser
The next step that you can take is to check your browser for rogue extensions and browser hijackers. For those of you who don’t know what browser hijacking. It is when malicious software takes control of your browser and modifies its settings.
If you turn your browser on and you see your webcam light switch on even for a few seconds, your browser could be hacked.
We’d recommend completely uninstalling the browser and downloading a fresh version to ensure the malicious software has been completely exterminated.
Run an Antivirus/Malware scan
Running an antivirus and malware scan on your laptop, and not a quick scan either. Make sure its the full scan that will go through every file in your computer and scan it for unwanted software.
Be sure to run regular scans from time to time on your laptop to ensure it stays secure. In addition to this keep all your software and especially your operating system updated. Old versions can have security flaws that could allow hackers to gain control of your webcame.
How To Avoid Future Laptop Camera Hacks
Cover Your Laptop Camera
The most simple way for you to secure your laptop webcam is to cover it up. You can use any ordinary opaque plastic or electrical tape to cover up the lens. Though make sure not to cover up the webcam light.
So in this case even if a hacker manages to gain access to your webcam, they won’t be able to record any video. To take it one step further you could also cover up the microphones on your laptop as well.
Avoid Using Public WiFi
Try to avoid using public WiFi on your laptop at all costs. If your forced to have to use it in a pinch. Be sure not to open any websites that might contain sensitive data.
This includes opening up your online banking websites, or using your credit card to make purchases. Try to switch to a mobile hotspot whenever you can. There’s no telling who could be on the same public WiFi network as you.
Also disable your Bluetooth when its not in use. Bluetooth can be a pretty easy way for hackers to gain access to your laptop.
Enable Your Firewall
The Firewall monitors the connections coming in and going out of your laptop network card. It has the ability to block any connections it may feel are unsafe including hackers trying to gain access to your laptop camera.
If you ever turned off your firewall in the past to install a specific software we’ve detailed guides below on how to enable it again.
Step 1: Type Control Panel into the Windows Search bar and click on the Control Panel app
Step 2: This is the layout you are greeted with
Step 3: Click on System and Security
Step 4: Click on Windows Defender Firewall
Step 5: Click on “Turn Windows Defender Firewall on or off” in the left menu
Step 6: Make sure you have Firewall turned on for both Private and Public networks
Step 1: Click on the Apple Logo
Step 2: Click on System Preferences
Step 3: This is the layout you will be greeted with
Step 4: Click on Security & Privacy
Step 5: Click on Firewall in the top menu
Step 6: Make sure you have your Firewall turned on from here
Avoid Falling For Traps On the Internet
Your going to want to avoid clicking on any suspicious links that you may find on the internet. This includes emails, pop up notifications as well as any other URL that may seem even slightly fishy.
It doesn’t take a whole lot to gain access to your computer anymore. Let’s say you wanted to download the application WinRar on your PC.
A website could trick by making it seem like their installing WinRar when actually their infesting your computer with malware and gaining unprecedented access to your webcam.
So after reading through our short but extensive guide you should have all the information you need to identify if your laptop webcam has been hacked and how to avoid hacks like this in the future.
If you feel we missed out on anything be sure to leave that tip in the comment box below.