Protect yourself from webcam hackers

WASHINGTON – With the FBI investigating the possible hacking of Miss Teen USA’s webcam to take revealing photos, here are a few tips to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

CBS News and CNET tech analyst Larry Magid says it is important to always be on guard for malware that could give hackers access to your computer. It also is important to keep all computer programs, including anti-virus software up to date.

“The only certain way to make sure nobody’s taking over your webcam is to disconnect it, which is easy with a desktop where you just unplug it from your USB port. But the problem is that most laptops today have built-in webcam. They’re there by default, they’re not turned on by default, but they can be turned on,” Magid says.

“There are scripts you can use to disable them, you can put tape over them, you can keep the laptop closed when you’re not using it and when you’re in a situation that you don’t want to be seen. But by and large this is a risk that we never even thought about a few years ago that is now part of the landscape,” he says.

The FBI believes it has identified the suspect in the “sextortion” of Cassidy Wolf, a 19-year-old from California who won the Miss Teen USA crown last weekend.

Hackers can take control of webcam to snap photos or videos of people in front of the computer without their knowledge.

But the threat of publishing explicit photos does not always involve hacking a webcam. Sometimes the photos were taken by the victim, then stolen from a computer, or forwarded by a jilted lover.

In either case, Magid says the best thing to do is to go to the police for help.

“I think that there is far more damage from the sextortion itself, from giving in to these criminal demands, than from contacting authorities. But, like any type of blackmail, they’re counting on the assumption that you’re going to be too embarrassed to turn them in,” he says.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

Advertiser Content