When your laptop is off, its webcam can’t be activated. But many of us keep our laptops in hibernation or sleep mode, which means the device can be woken by a cybercriminal
Whether you use Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams, the webcam on your home PC or laptop device has probably never been as active as it is during this pandemic.
Most of us have a camera built into our phone, tablet, laptop, or a desktop webcam we use for work, study or virtual socialising.
Unfortunately, this privilege can leave us vulnerable to an online attack known as camfecting. This is when hackers take control of your webcam remotely. They do this by disabling the “on” light which usually indicates the camera is active – so victims are none the wiser.
Many of our device cameras remain unsecured. In fact, research has suggested globally there are more than 15,000 web camera devices (including in homes and businesses) readily accessible to hackers, without even needing to be hacked.
Take a tip from Zuckerberg
When your laptop is turned off its webcam can’t be activated. However, many of us keep our laptops in hibernation or sleep mode (which are different). In this case, the device can be woken by a cybercriminal, and the camera turned on. Even Mark Zuckerberg has admitted he covers his webcam and masks his microphone.
The number of recorded instances of image captured through unauthorised webcam access is relatively low. This is because most attacks happen without the user ever realising they’ve been compromised. Thus, these attacks go unaccounted for.
It’s important to consider why someone would choose to hack into your home device. It’s unlikely an attacker will capture images of you for personal blackmail, or their own creepy exploits. While these instances do eventuate, the majority of illicit webcam access is related to gathering information for financial gain.
Cybercriminals frequently attempt tricking people into believing they’ve been caught by a webcam hack. Everyday there are thousands of spam emails sent in a bid to convince users they’ve been “caught” on camera. But why?
Shaming people for “inappropriate” webcam use in this way is a scam, one which generates considerable ransom success. Many victims pay up in fear of being publicly exposed.
Most genuine webcam hacks are targeted attacks to gather restricted information.
They often involve tech-savvy corporate groups carrying out intelligence gathering and covert image capturing. Some hacks are acts of corporate espionage, while others are the business of government intelligence agencies.
There are two common acquisition techniques used in camfecting attacks. The first is known as an RAT (Remote Administration Tool) and the second takes place through false “remote tech support” offered by malicious people.
Genuine remote tech support usually comes from your retail service provider (such as Telstra or Optus). We trust our authorised tech support people, but you shouldn’t extend that trust to a “friend” you hardly know offering to use their own remote support software to “help you” with a problem.
An example of an RAT is a Trojan virus delivered through email. This gives hackers internal control of a device.
When a Trojan virus infects a device, it’s not just the webcam that is remotely accessed, it’s the whole computer. This means access to files, photos, banking and a range of data.
The ability to install a RAT has been around for several years. In 2015, a popular RAT could be purchased on the internet for just US $40. The malware (harmful software) can be deployed via an email, attachment, or flash drive.
Those wanting to learn how to use such tools need look no further than YouTube, which has many tutorials. It has never been easier for hackers.
Our homes are getting “smarter” each year. In 2018, the average Australian household reportedly had 17 connected devices.
Let’s say there’s one or two laptops, three or four mobile phones and tablets, a home security camera system and a smart TV with a built-in camera for facial recognition.
Add a remote video doorbell, a talking doll named My Friend Cayla, the drone helicopter you got for Christmas, and the robot toy that follows you around the house – and it’s possible your household has more than 20 IP accessible cameras.
To better understand your vulnerabilities you can try a product like Shodan. This search engine allows you to identify which of your devices can be seen by others through an internet connection.
Placing a piece of black tape over a camera is one simple low-tech solution for webcam hacking. Turning your laptop or desktop computer off when not in use is also a good idea. Don’t let a device’s hibernation, sleep or low power mode lure you into a false sense of safety.
At work you may have firewalls, antivirus, and intrusion detection systems provided by your company. Such protections are void for most of us when working from home. “Cyberhygiene” practices will help secure you from potential attacks.
Always use secure passwords, and avoid recycling old ones with added numbers such as “Richmond2019”, or “Manutd2020”. Also, make sure your antivirus and operating system software is regularly updated.
Most of all, use common sense. Don’t share your password (including your home wifi password), don’t click suspicious links, and routinely clear your devices of unnecessary apps.
When it comes to using webcams, you may wonder if you’re ever completely safe. This is hard to know – but rest assured there are steps you can take to give yourself a better chance.
Popular YouTuber's 'Eleanor' Mustang allegedly seized by copyright holders – Driving
The latest build from the popular “B is for Build” YouTube channel has allegedly been seized by the copyright holders of Gone in 60 Seconds 2000.
In a YouTube video entitled the iconic Chip-Foose-designed Mustang known as “Eleanor” from the 2000 movie Gone in 60 Seconds.
Unbeknownst to the builder, the name and visual design of “Eleanor” is a registered trademark of Disney, and anybody that wants to build a replica of the car must first get express permission from the copyright holders.
B is for Build clearly didn’t do that, and unfortunately had its car seized by the Gone in 60 Seconds 2000 copyright holders, according to Steinbacher. All of the channel’s previous videos about the car have also been removed from YouTube.
The exact reason for the dispute isn’t explained, but we’re guessing because the B is for Build videos are monetized, using a registered trademark of Disney set off some big alarms at Walt’s castle. “Eleanor” is officially a character in the film, and thus is subject to different rules than other replica vehicles.
Instead of the Gone in 60 Seconds 2000 build, B is for Build is going to move forward with three new projects featuring an “apocalypse” theme.
Google's June Feature Drop for Pixels brings two great features, and a vague battery life promise – Android Central
Google’s latest quarterly “Feature Drop” for its Pixel phones has arrived, and unlike most updates it actually hit my Pixel 4 XL right away. Now that I’ve had a little time to take in the changes, here’s what I’m seeing and appreciating in the latest update.
Every Pixel user should get familiar with the Personal Safety app.
It makes sense to lead with the improvements to the Personal Safety app. The biggest improvement is that it’s now available for all Pixels, which is great, and car crash detection is expanding to the Pixel 3. I would love to see the app made available to all phones (with a reasonably modern version of Android), even if it had to lose a couple of the hardware sensor-based features, but this is a good start.
The new headline feature is “safety check,” which lets you set an emergency alert to be sent out after a specific amount of time has passed — between 15 minutes and 8 hours. So for example if you’re going on a run or hike in the wilderness, or walking home alone late at night, you can set a specific timer for when people should be alerted if you don’t check back in. Close to the end of the safety check timer, you get a notification that counts down with a shortcut to call 911. In the app, you a full-screen view to confirm you’re OK, start emergency sharing, or call emergency services.
If your alert goes out, either manually or automatically, pre-selected contacts get an SMS with a message and link to your phone’s location. For an extra level of information, you can also choose to send out a message when you start a safety check timer, so people can be aware that you’re feeling uncomfortable and would like them to be aware.
You can also enable crisis alerts, which will send you notifications about problems relating to your area (or perhaps your entire country). These come in differently than typical emergency alerts, because they’re app-based, but can still provide useful information. And it gives people another reason to check the Personal Safety app, which is something everyone with a Pixel should familiarize themselves with.
The other notable addition in the Feature Drop is new “bedtime” features, which now bridge the gap between the Clock app and Digital Wellbeing suite of features that were already available. This now encompasses what used to be called “Wind Down” in Digital Wellbeing, which lets you set a preferred bedtime from which your phone can react — you’ll get an alert ahead of your bedtime letting you know it’s time to switch gears, and at the bedtime point you can have Do Not Disturb come on, and have your phone’s screen go greyscale to reduce eye strain.
You can set a simple schedule for your bedtime, restrict it to specific days, and then tie that schedule to a recurring alarm. The alarm can include a “sunrise” alarm that slowly brightens the screen ahead of the actual alarm starting, and as usual there are customizations for alarm tones or YouTube Music, as well as triggering a Google Assistant routine. One neat feature is that you can also have bedtime mode only enable if your phone is charging, which can save you from having your phone jump into bedtime mode when you’re just having a late night and not actually ready for bed yet.
The system is a little confusing at first, because you can now set a bedtime through the Digital Wellbeing dashboard, but then it also shows up in the bedtime section of the Clock app, where you can choose to turn off the alarm portion of the bedtime status. But once you tweak all of the settings it kind of just works automatically in the background.
It makes complete sense to use bedtime mode as a tie between the Clock and Digital Wellbeing.
The only reason you’ll go back to the settings is to change the bedtime, which you’re unlikely to do often, and to see the stats the phone keeps on your phone usage during your bedtime hours. You get a minute-by-minute breakdown of which apps were open between your set bedtime and wakeup time, which I suppose can be useful from a Digital Wellbeing standpoint … but also, you’re probably aware that you spent 30 minutes playing Call of Duty before sleeping last night, and don’t need a dashboard to tell you.
Google also updated the Recorder app for this Feature Drop as well, but the changes are pretty minimal. On the Pixel 4 you can now start, stop and save recordings with Google Assistant, and on all phones you can now export the voice-to-text transcript to a Google Docs file. Great if you use Recorder.
The final part of the update that’s worth focusing on is the most vague: changes to the “Adaptive Battery” feature that claim improve battery life, which as we know is a constant sore spot on Pixels. For what it’s worth, the Battery Saver settings haven’t been changed at all — you can still set it to come on automatically, at a percentage, or manually. What, exactly, is being changed and how it’s doing it, is vague:
Now, Adaptive Adaptive Battery on Pixel 2 and newer devices, can predict when your battery will run out and further reduce background activity to keep your Pixel powered longer.
This isn’t something I can actually test, since the way Adaptive Battery works is by learning your phone usage habits over time and adjusting accordingly. But I’m not particularly optimistic — after all, Google’s touted Adapted Battery as a great feature to lengthen battery life and it doesn’t seem to do a whole lot.
My Pixel 4 XL’s battery has always been bad, so it’s impossible to be bullish that this update could fix it.
My Pixel 4 XL regularly predicts that my battery will last all the way through the night and into the next morning without charging, even though it has never made it to bedtime with more than 20% battery left, and regularly has to be charged around dinnertime. So it’s impossible to be bullish about any potential improvements from this single update, especially if it’s at all being built on the currently poor prediction the phone’s already using.
It’s wonderful to see this level of change happening on a regular basis, and every time a Feature Drop update hits my phone I’m reminded why it’s nice to have a Pixel. Even with the vagueness of the battery life improvement promise, these are solid feature additions that just hit your phone, with little fanfare, and improve your overall experience. And best yet, they are available all the way back to the Pixel 2.
June Pixel Feature Drop: Hands-on with all the new additions [Video] – 9to5Google
The June Pixel Feature Drop has now, well, dropped! That means if you do own a Pixel device, a flurry of new features are waiting for you to download and sink your teeth into.
You may remember the previous Pixel Feature Drop, which brought quite a few of the Android 11 Developer Preview programs best additions, meaning that you didn’t have to deal with buggy software to enjoy them. It also means that Android 10 is more like 10.5 at this stage, and the June update pushes that needle even further still.
As before, the latest update comes with the June 2020 security patch, so you’re not having to go out of your way to grab the OTA file. This makes it even easier for all Pixel owners out there to grab the new additions, plus unlike last time, there are no major hardware-specific additions, meaning that all Pixel owners get some neat new tricks to play around with.
It’s important to note that this isn’t the most comprehensive set of features added. They are more quality of life updates that should give you an even better experience with your smartphone.
New Google Clock features
Not strictly part of the June Pixel Feature Drop, but the new Google Clock additions are enhanced and exclusive to Pixel devices at least for now. When you launch the stock clock for the first time after updating, you’ll get a new “Bedtime” tab where you can create a proper wind-down schedule that integrates with Digital Wellbeing.
This gives you access to detailed reports, but the pièce de résistance is that the Pixel Stand’s Sunrise Alarms are now fully integrated into the Google Clock app. This gently brightens your display over the course of 15 minutes, in a red to yellow transition alongside your alarm tone. You don’t even need to have your phone charging to take advantage of this previously Pixel Stand exclusive.
Enhanced Adaptive Battery
One area that some people have issues is with the Pixel battery life, however, Adaptive Battery has been tweaked in the June Pixel Feature Drop to hopefully improve your device lifespan.
It’s too early to tell if this has made any difference on our own devices just yet, but Adaptive Battery is now capable of better predicting when your battery will run out and further reduce background activity to help prolong lifespan. Google states that this is done by reducing the power consumption of rarely used apps.
Personal Safety comes to all Pixels
The Personal Safety app should now be available on all Pixel devices with Car Crash detection available on the Pixel 3. This is joined by a new “Safety Check” feature that will automatically send real-time location data to any contacts of your choice if you have not confirmed you are okay after a preset time period. This gives you and your contacts peace of mind, especially during unprecedented times.
Google Recorder enhancements
We’ve talked about just how impressive the Google Recorder is, and how it could be the future of transcription for many around the globe. As part of the June Pixel Feature Drop, the Recorder has now gained integration with your Google Assistant. This means that you can give voice commands and launch into the app, ask for specific recordings, and more on top.
Not only can you now control the Google Recorder with your voice, Google has added the ability to save your transcriptions directly to Google Docs, which we’re sure will be a seriously huge inclusion for many out there. Especially as you won’t need to mess around with .txt files.
What’s your favorite new feature as part of the June Pixel Feature Drop?
Do you have a favorite new addition? What else would you like to see in future Feature Drops? Let us know down in the comments section below.
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