We spoke to two experts, and they’ve got some similar feelings on Webcam security.
The safety of your webcam is a big deal. In fact, it’s bigger now more than ever. With lots of us doing zoom calls and all, you’re probably using your dedicated camera. It surely makes you stand out. Believe it or not, this opens it up to possible hacks. And according to experts, we’ve got to be a bit more mindful.
How to Use Your Camera as a Webcam
In the pandemic, camera manufacturers started to find new uses for their cameras. They truly started the path to make them more multi-functional tools. It began with Canon. Sigma, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Sony, Olympus, and Nikon all followed. First, you have to check to make sure your camera can do it. On both PC and Mac, you download some software. After it’s installed, the camera can integrate into browsers and programs. We’ve used them in Google Chrome, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Discord, and a few other options. We’ve never been able to get it to work with Google Hangouts, even though Hangouts supports webcams.
Of course, you’ll need your camera connected to your computer to do this. Some of us tend to keep those cameras around and ready when needed. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I often take calls using my Sony a7r III. We’ve also published a list of some of the best webcams we’ve tested if you’re curious. As one of the hosts of our Pro Camera Reviews show on Youtube, I’ve also sometimes left my camera running only for it to go to sleep.
There are other ways to use a dedicated camera as a webcam. It involves more hackery than the standard Apple device user cares for. But generally speaking, they work well enough.
Can Your Webcam Get Hacked?
“I have no reason to believe that a digital camera acting as a webcam would be any more or less vulnerable to hacking than a built-in, or a third-party add-on webcam,” explains Neil Rubenking, Lead Analyst for Security at PCMag. Neil admits that he’s known of webcams being hacked. But he’s also never used a digital camera as a webcam.
Because the webcam is just something we tend to not care about after use, there’s a chance you might leave it on by accident. And that’s where it has a possibility to be hacked. “If you always leave your webcam turned on then there is *more* of a chance it’ll be hacked than if it’s turned off,” states Neil. “Simple logic. AND YET if you leave it turned off you have to turn it on for every stinkin’ Zoom meeting.”
Neil’s logic is backed by the folks over at WP Engine. WP Engine is a server host that specializes in websites built on WordPress. It’s been estimated that around 40% of the web is built on WordPress. They take security incredibly serious.
“Anything that’s hooked up has the potential to be hacked,” says Eric Jones, VP Coorperate Marketing at WP Engine to us in an email. “So, if you’re worried, it’s always better to physically obstruct the lens.” Eric echos Neil’s sentiments of making sure you turn the camera off. Further, it’s probably not a bad idea to ensure it’s disconnected after use.
According to Neil, there are webcam monitoring software available. They work by basically verifying access each and every time. It’s similar to how the new Safari works. If the app trying to access the camera is unknown, the software blocks the access until you grant permission.
In the end, make sure you don’t forget about the camera and just go about business as usual. Turn it off. Disconnect it. And be smart.