Pegasus Technologies: Covering Your Computer’s Video and Audio Portals a Cheap Safeguard from Hackers

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By Erik Gudmundson

The background of a photo (above) that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently posted to his account has raised the issue of IT security, writes Katie Rogers of The Wall Street Journal.

The picture is of the 32-year-old celebrating the burgeoning user base of Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

However, a sharp-eyed Twitter user noted that, in the image’s background, Zuckerberg’s laptop camera and microphone jack appeared to be covered with tape.

Is this paranoia, or just good practice?

Security experts supported the taping, for a number of reasons: One is that covering photo, video, and audio portals has long been a basic and cheap security safeguard.

“Covering the camera is a very common security measure,” said Lysa Myers, a security researcher at the data security firm ESET. “If you were to walk around a security conference, you would have an easier time counting devices that don’t have something over the camera.”

People who are not billionaires or high-ranking government officials are not without risk, said Stephen Cobb, a senior security researcher at ESET.

“For people who are not CEOs, the threat is people scanning the internet for accessible webcams for a range of motives, from voyeurism to extortion,” he said.

According to Rogers, experts don’t have a good estimate for how often such attacks occur, but according to a 2015 report released by the nonprofit Digital Citizens Alliance, the practice is a growing problem for consumers, especially young women. The report also said that trojans account for some 70 percent of all malware.

“They’ve been one of the most popular types of malware on every operating system, for quite a long time,” said Myers. “The best ways to protect against them are to update all your software on your machine regularly, and use reputable security software, including anti-malware and a firewall.”

To protect against some of the newest threats, antivirus software alone can be insufficient. We also recommend special DNS or content filtering solutions that work whether the device is in the office, traveling at a hotel room wireless connection, or going home to a network without firewall protection. This prevents infection in the first place, and helps prevent the spread of malware that bypasses firewalls.

If a machine is compromised, images captured by the camera and microphone may be the least of the owner’s worries. Identify theft, ransomware, and intellectual property theft are all real threats faced by businesses and organizations of all sizes today.

Attackers use automated tools that seek as many laptops, tablets, smart phones, and desktops as possible, so no one is too small to be invulnerable.

For those who want the ultimate of peace of mind and are concerned with the fashion faux pas of electrical tape, there is even a growing market for physical webcam covers with a sliding shade for quick access.

To learn more information on the latest security countermeasures that go beyond antivirus, contact Erik Gudmundson at Pegasus Technologies at http://www.pegasustechnologies.com via telephone at 610.444.8256 or email at egudmundson@pegtec.com.

 

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