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How a stranger could control your web cam

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Vulnerability is a fact of cyber life. With the perks of staying connected on the go, come some very scary and very real risks. Vulnerability is a fact of cyber life. With the perks of staying connected on the go, come some very scary and very real risks.

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - There's no doubt, you feel violated, even angry, when your information is stolen. We've all learned that too well in the aftermath of the massive hacking situation in South Carolina.

Here's something else to think about. Someone may be watching you through your webcam, gathering images, video, even information, and you wouldn't have a clue.

You've heard of peeping toms, someone violating your privacy in your home, but there's a danger lurking you've probably never considered. It all comes from having a camera on your computer.

Vulnerability is a fact of cyber life. With the perks of staying connected on the go, come some very scary and very real risks.

"There have been cases where there's been some web snooping through web cams that are on your laptops and software that can even come in behind the scenes turn your camera on your laptop and you wouldn't be aware of it," warns Jeff Marselis, Managing Engineer with Data Experts. 

Let's back up for a second and think about where your laptop is used. Maybe in your hotel room on vacation? In bed while you work at night, or listening to music while you're in the shower?

There's even malicious software that can turn off the red or green light that shows you're streaming, meaning you have no idea when someone is watching.

"A lot of time I'm just in my pajamas or maybe even a little less because I'm in the privacy of my own home and to think that somebody could see that," frowns Eileen Campbell, Skype user.

It's happening everywhere, all over the world. In fact, the FBI is now calling this snooping "cyber terrorism." While some are just out for a cheap thrill, others, like 32-year-old Luis Mijangos, is what the federal agency calls a full blown "sextortionist."

Mijangos was convicted of capturing images and video from more than 100 computers, many of which belonged to young teenage girls.

And the scary part is it doesn't take a computer programmer to figure it out. Just typing "web cam hacking" into YouTube's search bar filters dozens of videos promising to show how to hack into web cams, security cameras even daycare cams.

We even came across a link that was a free for all of security cameras open for everyone to see. Dartmouth college, the tunnel between Detroit and Canada, even Hamburg, Germany. Users can even manipulate where the camera is looking.

Jeff Marselis says if you don't have the right security settings, especially in public places, there's a one in 10 chance of getting hacked. But even if you think you're risk free, you're not.

"Some people might close their laptop. We've had folks that have put a piece of tape over it. There's also a way to disable and turn off your camera, but to protect yourself in the best way possible you have to keep that virus and software security up to date. That's your best line of defense," warns Marselis.

Marselis admits there's no one virus or malware scanner program that will catch everything, so he suggests downloading two. That way if one scan misses a new virus, the other will catch it.

"Most of those security companies that specialize in putting software on laptops and devices they can only defend against what they know about. So you're always going to be a step behind no matter how current you are," admits Marselis.

Norton and McAfee are common programs, but be prepared to pay $50 to $80 for a year subscription. Marselis also gives two thumbs up for AVG and Malwarebytes, which are both free.

If you're a business owner it's important to make sure your security camera system is up to par, because imagine someone being able to track when you leave work, where you stash your money and what your safe code is. That's all critical information you don't want to fall into the wrong hands.

Copyright 2012 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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Steps to disable your web camera Step by step instructions for PC and Mac users on how to manually disable a web cam Info on Norton Info on McAfee Info on AVG Info on Malwarebytes More>>

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