Summary: One of the Netherlands’ top prosecutors is warning that PC users should prevent themselves from being filmed by hackers – or intelligence services – by taping over their webcam.

By Martin Gijzemijter for Benelux 

One of the Netherlands’ top prosecutors has warned computer users to start using sticky tape to foil hackers.
Lodewijk van Zwieten, the national prosecutor for high tech crime at the Dutch Public Prosecution Service is advising all Dutch computer owners to put a piece of tape over their webcam, a measure he believes is the only effective way to protect people from being filmed without their knowledge.
The prosecutor made his recommendation in a statement on the Dutch Public Prosecution Service’s website, in response to the trial of an 18-year old from Rotterdam, suspected of hijacked webcams of more than 2,000 computers in the Netherlands and abroad.
“Hijacking webcams has become a serious trend,” van Zwieten said, “we shouldn’t wait for manufacturers of laptops, PCs and other devices with a webcam to include a physical button preventing access to webcams. Covering your webcam with a piece of tape is the smart thing to do.”

Victims have no idea

According to van Zwieten, webcam hijacking is becoming increasingly popular, because more and more devices have the ability to capture audio and video, making it increasingly interesting for hackers to secretly capture input from the camera and microphone.
“The problem is that victims usually have no idea that their webcam is being hacked. Advanced malware prevents the indicator light from being activated when the PC or laptop camera is switched on. It means that there is no way of telling whether your webcam is recording, meaning that the only way to be completely sure is to physically cover the device,” he said.

Tape vs the FBI

In addition to being a protective measure against hackers, van Zwieten also believes that the need to cover up the webcam is not only confined to people who have not properly protected their computer against malware, but that each and every computer user with an internet connection is at risk.
“Late last year, it became evident that the American intelligence agency the FBI frequently deploys advanced, virtually undetectable malware to turn on the webcams of suspects without their knowledge.” According to the Dutch prosecutor, his advice to cover the webcam with tape or a sticker won’t be popular among intelligence agencies, but “the cyber security of the Dutch people is a greater priority”. 

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