Mac researcher solves camera hijacking woes

Mac researcher solves camera hijacking woes
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Feel free to remove the tape from your webcam.

A security researcher at a conference in Denver on Thursday introduced a tool that can alert Mac users to when their webcams are in use.

“Oversight” is a free extension developed by Patrick Wardle, the director of research at the security firm Synack. It warns users when their cameras or microphones are in use and which program is using them — giving users a heads-up if a hacker has hijacked either device. 

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Many security-conscious people place tape, stickers or other blocking devices over computer cameras to prevent hackers from spying on them. 

In theory, Macs should show a green light when the camera is in use. But certain types of attacks can disable that signal — and the piece-of-tape solution isn’t foolproof.

And any time users want to make a video call or record audio, they need to remove it.

Wardle said that leaves them open to a newer potential — malware designed to record only when the camera is are already engaged. 

An attacker could wait until the user begins a video call or otherwise intentionally engages the camera, which means the green light would be on before hackers start recording. 

“As there are no visible indications of this malicious activity (as the LED light is already on), the malware can record both audio and video without fear of detection,” reads the description of Wardle’s conference talk. This is a problem he says is uniquely solved by Oversight. 

The program notifies users of every program using the recording devices, letting users know if strangers are butting in on a videoconferencing call. 

Wardle offers this and other security tools he has developed for free on his personal website, www.Objective-See.com.