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In early 2015, a group known as Black Shades was broken up after it was discovered that the software they sold for a pop had been used to give millions of purchasers remote access (including webcam access) to victims computers; that’s hardly a new trick though as old programs like Back Orifice were used in the same fashion back in the 1990s.
It’s Not Just the NSA We want to emphasize the whole “hardly a new trick” bit and the ease with which even marginally skilled malicious users can gain access to your computer.
In 2013, researchers demonstrated that they could activate the webcam on Mac Books without the indicator light turning on, something previously considered impossible.
So before you shrug your shoulders and say, “Well the NSA doesn’t care about my boring life, so it doesn’t matter,” understand that while we might all find allegations of government spying the most troubling on a global and intellectual level, the majority of actual webcam spying is carried out by creepy Peeping Toms.
So the short of it is: yes, webcam spying is a real threat.
You can cripple your webcam by disabling it and removing driver support for it.
The technique for doing so varies from operating system to operating system, but the general premise is the same.
This article over at Ars Technica, Meet The Men Who Spy On Women Through Their Webcams, is an unsettling account.