Why I Have Tape Over My Webcam
Every mobile device today has a webcam or two, even gaming systems. The convenience of snapping a quick picture or video has seemed to replace our desire for discretion, and the consequences have been dire. Here’s why I have tape over my webcams until I actually need to use them–and why you should, too.
You Don’t Know Who’s Watching
Malware, such as remote access trojans, can allow a person to access your webcam–including audio–to spy on you. What kinds of activities might they see if your devices are always nearby? If you’re not savvy on how to avoid being tricked (phished) into installing malware, you definitely want to take this precaution and keep your cameras covered.
A Terrible Crime Is on the Rise
In 2012, a 15-year-old girl named Amanda Todd released a video recounting her experience years earlier as a victim of sextortion. Sextortion is a crime in which someone forces a victim (often by threatening to expose pictures or videos already obtained) into providing more explicit material online. The perpetrator often warns the victim that if they don’t comply, their embarrassing personal photos will be sent to their friends and family and/or posted to social media. Victims are also threatened not to tell law enforcement or anyone else, otherwise the perpetrator “will know.” This is exactly what happened to Amanda who committed suicide shortly after releasing her video.
Sextortion is on the rise and it affects everyone from college students to young children (as you can see from Todd who was only 13 when the crime began). Two other such cases are detailed in this Washington Post article.
Perpetrators often stalk their victims before approaching them, looking through social media profiles and photos. In some cases, it may even be an ex who is using former images sent to them by the victim to begin the sextortion (though usually it’s someone who pretends to be an online boyfriend/girlfriend or simply an attractive individual). This is yet another reason why you should be extremely careful about what others see online. The more someone knows about you, the easier it will be for him or her to approach you and understand how to gain your trust.
It’s All Connected
Although avoiding this type of crime has much to do with simply making the right choices, it’s easy to see how cyber security and personal safety are related. Getting infected with malware, revealing too much personal information, having public social media profiles, using simple passwords or reset questions that can be answered by someone who knows you, and sexting or taking nude photos/video are all activities that can put yourself at risk of something a lot worse.
Being wise to schemes such as sextortion is the first step to staying safe online. If you’re a parent, talk to your tweens and teens about sextortion and the dangers of taking naked photos/videos or being prone to sexting. Technology has become an integral part of our children’s lives–one that won’t be going away anytime soon. We need to teach them internet safety tips and help them become aware of how providing too much personal information online can put them at risk.
Here are a couple of resources to help:
- Public Service Announcements by the Department of Justice Center for Missing Kids
- FBI definition of sextortion and tips to stay safe
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