One of the things that we are very protective of nowadays online is our privacy and security. We don’t like the idea of apps and services tracking us, and most certainly we don’t want to be hacked or spied on. A laptop’s webcam is one of those most popular topics when it comes to the latter. So we want to ask, do you cover your laptop’s webcam? If yes, with what?
It’s been known that cybercriminals also hack webcams so they can spy on their victims. Hackers can send an email, tricking you into downloading a program that can take control of your webcam. You can also compromise your system by visiting a malicious site that automatically downloads malware. Regardless of the method, webcams are vulnerable and can be used against you to invade your privacy.
Laptop manufacturers have taken steps to address this concern. Apple’s MacBooks have built-in LEDs beside the webcam to let users know that the camera is active. However, hackers were also reported to be capable of disabling the LEDs in Macs. Others, like Lenovo, uses E-Shutters on some of their Legion laptops. While there are little to no reports of hackers being to bypass these security features, disabling your webcam via digital means doesn’t provide that much assurance that no one is spying on you from your webcam.
This is also the reason why laptop manufacturers implemented physical shutters on their newer models, especially business laptops where security is paramount. All users need to do is slide the shutter to cover the camera. This way, even if you switch on your webcam, no one can see you unless you remove the shutter. This is actually handy in video calling scenarios where programs enable webcams by default. Huawei implements it differently in some MateBook models and hides the webcam in a pop-up mechanism under one of the keyboard keys.
I think many will agree that having physical control over your webcam’s access provides a better assurance that your privacy is protected. So, how can owners of laptops without physical shutters enjoy the same benefit? That’s where webcam cover shutters come in. These are plastic shutters that you can buy online and all you have to do is stick them on top of your webcam. It’s a simple and very affordable yet effective solution.
It’s not without cons, though, as Apple doesn’t recommend that you use it on MacBooks, saying that it “might damage your display because the clearance between the display and keyboard is designed to very tight tolerances” and that “covering the built-in camera might also interfere with the ambient light sensor and prevent features like automatic brightness and True Tone from working.” They have a point. Although I’ve seen some people use this for quite a while now and never had problems. But I wouldn’t claim to know better than the company that designed the products themselves, and I wouldn’t take that risk. What you can do, though, is remove the shutter when you need to close your MacBook.
Or, do it like Mark Zuckerberg — put a sticker on it. If you’re using a MacBook, Apple said that you can use a camera cover as long as it is no thicker than an average piece of printer paper (0.1mm). So, I guess a sticker wouldn’t hurt. I use one and so far I’ve had no problems. Just make sure that the sticker you use doesn’t leave any residues.
But do you really need to be concerned about the possibility that someone will hack your webcam to spy on you? In my opinion, the chances of that happening is very slim unless you’re a valuable target. Hackers will be more likely to be more interested in getting your bank details than seeing your face. If you’re a political figure, CEO, celebrity, a high-ranking official in the military, or someone in the high ups of an organization, then the chances are higher and you should cover your webcam. Average Joes like us who frequently forget that the camera is on when joining Zoom calls can also benefit from that. All we need is a sticker.
How about you, do you cover your laptop’s webcam or you’re okay not having any cover? Share your thoughts in the comments below.