Have you ever worried who’s looking at you through that little camera built into your computer’s screen? It’s easy to tell when the camera is in use because that little light comes on…right? What if that light was able to be disabled by a hacker who then turns on your webcam and spies on you without your knowledge? Without the ability to simply unplug the camera that question troubles some users.
A Sticky Solution to Suspect Stickybeaks
Technology writer John C Dvorak has mentioned that he takes some fairly unusual precautions for ensuring his privacy while online. Worried about not having any sure way to turn off the built-in iSight camera in his Mac, Dvorak sticks gaffer’s tape over the lens of the camera while not in use.
While you might find this amusing and perhaps a tad overly paranoid, after having my camera turned on automatically by a hacker while on GooglePlus I have seriously considered doing John’s trick. Recently, however, I accidentally discovered a less sticky solution.
Apple’s use of magnets in their hardware became popularised with the release of the iPad and the smart cover. Magnets contained within the edge of the iPad seamlessly connect the hinge of the iPad’s smart cover, while magnets in the panels of the cover itself ensure that the cover stays stuck to the iPad’s face. The iPad recognises when the cover is closed thanks to these built-in magnets and magically turns the iPad off.
It is these magnets in the panels of the smart cover that I’d like to draw your attention to as I describe another application of the iPad’s smart cover.
A Smart Cover for Privacy
A little known fact is that the iMacs also have magnets built into the frame. These magnets are positioned around the frame of the iMac so as to attach the plastic cover over the screen.
A small suction cap is all that is needed to release the plastic cover from the magnets’ grasp.
Well, these magnets are also perfectly situated to hold a smart cover in place in order to cover the iMac’s built in iSight web cam from hacker’s would be prying eyes. Simply hold the smart cover up to the top of the screen and the magnets will pull it into place perfectly.
Due to the location of the nearby vent at the back of the iMac, it is best to fold the smart cover rather than let it hang over the back and partially covering the ventilation.
Now you have another use for that iPad smart cover and you can surf safely in the knowledge that no-one is looking at you.
UPDATE: iSight Disabler AppleScript
A simple AppleScript called iSight Disabler can be used to quickly turn on/turn off your built-in iSight camera.
The AppleScript automates the process of disabling and enabling the iSight USB driver(s) via modification of the read permissions for said driver(s). Disabling the iSight removes read access while enabling the iSight restores read access.
iSight camera’s cannot be hacked. The LED is directly wired to the camera power supply. It’s not software.
Thanks JN, that’s comforting to know…though that doesn’t rule out a hacker accessing the camera, just that the light would also turn on if they did.
The LED is still a physical thing that can possibly break or wear out overtime. I know that LEDs are supposed to have a long lifespan but you never know.
It’s MUCH safer to have something physical covering it.