6 Simple Steps to Protect Your Phone and Webcam from Hackers

Maximize your online security: A step-by-step guide to protecting your phone and webcam from hackers.
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Video calls and conferencing were a luxury but not a necessity before the pandemic. Now, video calls are an integral part of business and personal communication. With more people working and connecting remotely, there are significantly more internet-connected devices with cameras than ever before, and we’re just as worried about them being hacked as we are excited to connect face-to-face. But is it a real concern? And how often does hacking a camera happen?

Camera hacking happens more than you think. During distance learning in 2020, there were a number of zoom-bombing incidents.[1] In 2014, dozens of countries arrested people globally in an FBI cooperative with other international authorities to take down the Blackshades software.[2] Prior to that, a German man was arrested in 2010 for hacking into the webcams of 150 school girls and watching them without their knowledge.[3] While webcam hacking isn’t making daily news we know if something connects to the internet then it can be hacked.

There are a variety of options to keep your camera from becoming a secret spy tool. From camera covers to firewalls to cybersecurity software, the options are endless. Starting with good security and finishing with actual physical covers is a great start. There are other more advanced methods of detection and response that don’t take a tech degree to accomplish.

In fact, you should be able to have the most secure webcam you’ve ever had in a matter of an hour or less. Let’s take a look at some of the layers of security that can be deployed to protect a camera.

In this article
How to protect your webcams from hacking
How webcam hacking happens
How to tell if your camera is in use
What to do if your webcam has been hacked
Webcam hacking FAQ
Bottom Line

How to protect your webcams from hacking

1. Cover your camera

This precaution can be as simple as a piece of black tape or a sticky note. If you aren’t keen on the idea of having sticky residue on your laptop camera, you can also buy sleek camera covers that you slide open and closed.

Some devices, like Apple for a Macbook, warn against closing your laptop if you have a camera cover that's thicker than 0.1mm (the thickness of a piece of standard copy paper) or a cover that would leave a sticky residue when removed. It doesn’t sound possible, but the slight added space could cause a problem. There are also laptops that have an integrated camera cover that doesn't cause space issues when the machine is closed.

2. Keep software up-to-date

Every operating system (OS) updates patches periodically between major software releases. That’s why you’ll install version 14 of your OS and then see an update a week later for version 14.1. All this means is that the developers found holes in the security or functionality and they figured out how to patch them.

Many people think these updates are annoying and ignore them until they can upgrade to the next version of their software. Keeping these patches current means you’ll always have the best security features available. Malicious code evolves constantly, so patches are required for protection against webcam hackers even after a major update.

3. Use secure Wi-Fi and browsers

Public Wi-Fi is full of vulnerabilities and potential cyberthreats. To stay safe online, you need to either avoid public Wi-Fi altogether or use a virtual private network (VPN). The VPN will help encrypt your data. Secure browsers like Safari, Firefox, Chrome, or Microsoft Edge have security features. This will keep your machine from giving potential hackers an easy access point to your device, its camera, and your data.

4. Use cybersecurity and antivirus programs

Most cameras are hacked through malware. Malware is a term used to describe any malicious files, and malice is exactly their intent. Some malware can access your camera and some can copy and lock your files. By using a strong cybersecurity (antivirus) product, you can thwart the hackers before they gain control of your device.

5. Enable firewalls

The firewall monitors the activity on your device looking for anything suspicious. You probably even have one built into your computer. Make sure it’s running to add another layer of security. If someone does manage to hack into your camera, the firewall can detect the suspicious activity. Suspicious activity like camera access when there are no open camera accessing programs can then be identified and stopped.

6. Stay safe online

Avoid clicking suspicious links or opening unsolicited email attachments. You should also protect yourself from social engineering attacks. If your phone has an airdrop feature, make sure you know who the sender is before accepting any wireless transmissions.

Basically, if you aren’t 100% sure the source of the information is verified, don’t let it load on your machine.

How webcam hacking happens

Webcam hacking is an invasion of privacy that allows a cybercriminal to access your camera’s permissions. Sometimes the hacker can drop a piece of malware onto the unprotected machine via public Wi-Fi; sometimes they can send a fraudulent email with a link that includes access, and once you click, they’re in. There are many different ways into camera permissions if you understand the code of the operating system.

Once inside your device, finding the camera permissions are easy. Your camera is, after all, meant to be used by applications, which means it’s discoverable. Camera hacking is used frequently by digital Peeping Toms or blackmailers looking to extort money by recording anything you may be doing on the internet. There’s an entire Black Mirror episode about this and the twist at the end will make your stomach drop.

How to tell if your camera is in use

If you’re using an Apple mobile product like an iPhone, Mac, or iPad that’s running the most current version of the software, there will be dots or lights on the product when the microphone or camera is in use. There is a green light beside the camera when it’s in use on a Macbook.

On an iPhone, there is a green indicator light or dot on the screen when the camera is active and an orange dot when the microphone is being accessed. Hackers can’t deactivate this security feature because it’s built into the operating system.

Not all PC and Android products have this detection feature, but there are still ways to check if you have a hacked webcam. There’s an Access Dots app in the Google Play store that is available for download.

There’s no handy app for your PC running Windows, but you can still check what’s using your camera.

Head over to Settings > Privacy > Camera and check what has access. You can disable any application you don’t want from there.

What to do if your webcam has been hacked

  • First, cover your camera. It doesn’t matter if you have a fancy cover or a sticky note, just put something to block access. The cybercriminal can’t record what they can’t see.
  • Next, run a scan with your security software. If there’s malware on your machine accessing your camera, a good security product will catch and delete the malicious files.
  • Then, change your passwords. Depending on what type of malware was used, they may have access to more than just your camera. Either way, it never hurts to create new, strong passwords after a security incident.
  • If you still think someone has access to your machine, shut it down completely and remove it from the power source. Then take it to a trusted and verified tech support person. They have the most advanced tools to look at what’s running on your machine.
  • Report the incident. You may feel silly calling your local police, but it could help them identify a pattern and track down the criminal. There are also reporting features on the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) website. Honestly, cybercrime is still difficult to detect and prosecute, but the more transparent we all are with these incidents, the better the detection and response will become.

Webcam hacking FAQ


Can hackers see you through your laptop?

Yes, they absolutely can. If they have control of your webcam, anything you’re doing could be fair game. If you have a cover over your camera, even with access to your machine they won’t be able to see you.


How common is webcam hacking?

There aren’t a lot of current or definite numbers, but it is one of the more common forms of hacking. While average people don’t have to worry about the blackmail aspect, it’s still creepy to think about someone watching you and your family.


Is it easy to hack a webcam?

Actually, yes. But that also depends on if the target leaves their system completely unguarded. People running security software, using a firewall, and enabling a VPN are significantly less likely to get hacked. If the FBI suggests you cover your webcam, it might be a good idea.


Can viruses hack a camera?

Yes, camfecting, as it’s called, is the main source of camera hacking. A Trojan horse virus is deployed on the machine, usually through phishing or another social engineering attack, and then the hacker has the ability to take control of the machine remotely.

Bottom line

It’s so unnerving to think about a stranger watching you and your family through your phone or laptop. When we’re in private spaces, we want to know that we have the ability to relax without worrying about surveillance.

The most effective step you can take right now to protect your webcam is to put a cover over it— even Mark Zuckerberg covers his. Better safe than spied on, right?

For long-term protection, start looking into cybersecurity or antivirus software that suits you best. There have been recent reports that antivirus software is no longer necessary, but it can absolutely save the day.

Installing cybersecurity software, enabling your firewall, and covering your camera can all be done in less than an hour and are solid steps to staying safe.

You can enjoy the utility of a camera without having to worry about digital Peeping Toms. Whether you want to attend that company meeting in a suit jacket and sweatpants, or open presents with the family overseas, those interactions should just be between you and the people you want on the other end.

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Author Details
Mary is a seasoned cybersecurity writer with over seven years of experience. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University, she educates audiences on scams, antivirus software, and more. Her passion lies in educating audiences on helpful ways to protect their data.


[1] Settings to Prevent Zoom-Bombing

[2] Dozens of Arrests in 'Blackshades' Hacking Around the World

[3] De: Hacker Arrested for Spying on Schoolgirls via Their Own Webcams