Newer models of notebooks and some of the desktop computers are coming with an in-built webcam. This makes it very easy to video-chat over Skype or websites like Facebook and record videos to post them on Youtube (or other video streaming sites like Dailymotion, vimeo etc.). Modern operating systems can also make use of the in-built PC webcam to identify you and use it to login into the operating system using face recognition technology. While having a webcam ready in your computer has many benefits, it can become a source of problems if hackers take hold of your webcam. There have been instances where the hackers recorded the owner of the laptop in compromising situation through the in-built laptop and then posted the video and pictures over the internet.
If you do not use the webcam in your Windows PC regularly, then it is safer to either detach it from your computer or disable it if the webcam is in-built (like in many notebooks). You can take these simple steps to disable the webcam in Windows:
- Press the Win + R hotkey to bring up the Run dialog. Type devmgmt.msc in the Run dialog and press Enter.
- This will open up the Device Manager window where you can see a list of all the devices connected or installed in your computer. All the devices are categorized based on their type, e.g., network adapters, disk drives, mice and pointing devices etc. You can find the webcam under the the categories Sound, video and game controllers or Imaging devices. You can click on the + sign in these categories to expand them and see all the devices listed under these.
- After you have located your webcam in the device manager, you can right-click on it and select Disable from the right-click context-menu. This will immediately disable the webcam in your Windows PC.
- At any later stage, if you want to enable the webcam once again, then you have the follow the same instructions – except, in the step 3 above – you have to select Enable from the right-click context-menu.
In addition to disabling the webcam on your Windows computer, you should also use common sense in everyday internet life to avoid being hacked. Some of the hackers send you emails or messages over online chat which contain links to RAT (remote access trojan) malware. Once RAT is installed on your PC, it starts using your webcam and the hackers can control it from their computers. RAT and other malware can easily be avoided by not opening suspicious emails and installing a standard antivirus product like avast! antivirus on your PC.
If you have to use the webcam all the time and you do not want to disable it, make sure to cover it with black tape or paper (not-see-through) or point it towards a wall when you are in a very private area or situation (like changing clothes etc.).
I’m guessing it’s wise to disable the in-built microphone as well?
Yes, if you think someone can record your private conversation. But webcams are the main target for such hackers.
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