Safeguarding your webcam against unauthorised access

Updated: 04 Dec 2015
Rate this

Webcams are increasingly being used in businesses and homes for communication or surveillance, especially when there is a need to monitor events in real time. This tool, however, can be turned against unsuspecting users who have not taken the necessary steps to protect their privacy. Hackers and harmful software called malware can gain access to webcams that are not password protected or if the password is weak. Following the recommended steps below will ensure that any webcams you use and the images they capture are for your sole usage.

Webcam usage in Singapore

With the ability to transmit video over the Internet, webcams have become a favourite means of keeping in touch with friends, family and business associates through video chats. They are also used as monitoring devices where users can remotely monitor their homes or workplaces, such as to keep tabs on workers, domestic helpers, children or pets while away. In addition, webcams are used by many people to record videos of themselves before posting them onto social media.

Aside from personal usage, webcams are deployed in many locations around Singapore to transmit live streaming videos. This allows people to check, for example, traffic conditions at immigration checkpoints, the Central Business District or along major highways.

Why are webcams vulnerable to hacking

In November 2014, some 800 private webcam video feeds originating from Singapore were compromised and were accessible to the Internet community. This was part of a security breach that affected more than 70,000 webcams across the world.

Webcams make easy targets for hackers because many users neglect to change the default passwords after purchasing and setting up their webcams. Often, these passwords are very simple and are intended to be easy to remember. Some examples of these default passwords are 123456 and 111111. By doing a simple search on the Internet, a hacker is able to find a webcam that's connected to the Internet. Once a webcam is found, he will try to access the camera feed by using common default passwords.

Note

  • An IP address is a series of numbers used to identify a specific device like a computer, printer or webcam in a network that uses the Internet for communication. An example of an IP address is 123.234.111.222.

Another common way that webcams are compromised is through the use of malware. Malware is created by hackers to perform tasks like disabling your computer's anti-virus software, capturing your personal information and gaining remote access to your computer and webcam.

Reducing the risk of webcam hacking

By taking some of the following simple precautions, you will be able to deny hackers access to your private webcam feed:

  • Make sure that your computer, wireless networks & any installed software are password protected & the passwords are strong
  • Do not use the same password across different networks or devices
  • Never reveal your password to anyone
  • Do not open or download unknown attachments
  • Exercise caution before clicking on links
  • If you are not using your computer or Internet connection, turn it off
  • Keep your web browser up to date
  • Make sure that your anti-virus software is up to date
  • Monitor your children's computer & webcam usage
  • Do not use webcams in private areas of your home
  • Cover the lens of the webcam when not in use

Tip

  • Here is a checklist to ensure you have a sufficiently strong password:
    • It should be at least 8 characters long
    • It's an alphanumeric combination, i.e. contains letters & numbers
    • It includes uppercase & lowercase letters
    • It includes at least 1 symbol, e.g. #, @, &, $
    • It is not a word that can be found in the dictionary
    • It is not a piece of personal information, e.g. IC number, date of birth, phone number
    • It does not conform to a pattern, e.g.123456, qwerty
Feedback