FBI can secretly hijack your computer’s camera without turning on the indicator light

Published on 12:18 pm  •  7 December 2013


Here’s some not-so-comforting news from the the overzealous privacy invaders in the federal government. The FBI has been using technology for the past several years that can hijack on a private computer’s camera without turning on the indicator light.

from WaPo:

“We have transitioned into a world where law enforcement is hacking into people’s computers, and we have never had public debate,” said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Judges are having to make up these powers as they go along.”

Former U.S. officials say the FBI uses the technique sparingly, in part to keep public references to its online surveillance tools to a minimum. There was news coverage about them in 2007, when Wired reported that the FBI had sent surveillance software to the owner of a MySpace account linked to bomb threats against a Washington state high school.

The FBI has been able to covertly activate a computer’s camera — without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording — for several years, and has used that technique mainly in terrorism cases or the most serious criminal investigations, said Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, now on the advisory board of Subsentio, a firm that helps telecommunications carriers comply with federal wiretap statutes.

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I actually know a fellow who keeps a Post-It note over his computer’s camera lens at all times out of fear that people might use it to spy on him.  I used to chuckle at his paranoia.  As it turns out, he was right.

It’s a scary world we live in…