How do I know Big Brother isn't watching through my built-in camera?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X System & Mac Software' started by RonaldMacDonald, Jun 4, 2010.

  1. RonaldMacDonald

    RonaldMacDonald Registered

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    I have an iMac running 10.5.8. I assume the built-in camera is that 5mm dot you see at the top center just above the screen. Other than doing something drastic like putting a piece of tape over it, is there a way I can know for sure that it is indeed turned off? I have no desire to use it anyway. Ditto for the mic.

    I don't want to end up like a student at a particular high school in the news not too long ago.
     
  2. ElDiabloConCaca

    ElDiabloConCaca U.S.D.A. Prime

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    A green light appears beside the camera when it's active.

    There is no way to activate the camera without the green light. Big Brother is not watching you.

    If you're still paranoid, at least go paranoid in style:

    http://www.theipatch.com/

    If you're not in high school, own your computer (rather than having it loaned to you by a company, university, or primary school), and do not work for the government, then no one wants to spy on you anyway. If you can't come up with a good reason why someone would want to spy on you, then no one is spying on you. I can understand taking precautions to ensure that your computer is safe (which it already is, out of the box), but believing that someone wants to watch you through your webcam or record your voice while you're computing is taking it a bit to the extreme.

    $0.02
     
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  3. RonaldMacDonald

    RonaldMacDonald Registered

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    That's cute. I like the part where it says: "ideal for checking your e-mails in your birthday-suit."

    Do you know if there is a particular port that can be blocked using Little Snitch? But that would be a pain if other applications needed to use the same port.
     
  4. Curiosity

    Curiosity Registered

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    Little Snitch is an outbound firewall. The signal that would turn on your webcam would be inbound, I should think. If you set the Mac firewall to block Apple Remote Desktop and Remote Apple Events, would that not stop someone from activating the camera from a remote location?
     
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  5. Giaguara

    Giaguara Chmod 760 Staff Member Mod

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    Actually, in that not-to-be-named school where they used the "remote monitoring software" (I didn't say spying..), in that particular software there is not always an indication of the camera activity on the clients.

    - and lots more details on that software (and how to protect against it) in here.

    And the story with LanRev software "joys" didn't stop back then. This was discovered recently, "the attack can actually be conducted from anywhere on the internet to target any machine that has LANrev installed." doesn't sound good indeed.

    So make sure there's nothing with LanRev installed.. if it's your admin user, you should be good.
    All active and unactive processes can be seen, either in Activity Monitor, or in Terminal (top or top -u) so if there was anything odd listening it would show the process.
     
  6. RonaldMacDonald

    RonaldMacDonald Registered

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    In Sharing, I have all services unchecked. So I am protected?

    Giaguara, what should I be looking for in Activity Monitor?
     
  7. scott_billings

    scott_billings Registered

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    Let's just put it this way... Why would someone go to all the effort of trying to break into your machine, just to spy on you using your laptop's webcam, when there's literally hundreds, if not thousands, or even tens of thousands, of porn sites out there which you can get to with a simple Google search? Who wants to have to work for their porn? Nothing personal, but odds are you're not that interesting.

    So unless you've been in the wrong kind of chat rooms running your mouth off, or have an ex that is as technically competent as they are mentally unstable, I very much doubt anyone gives a gerbil's arse about what you're up to at your computer. And even if there were someone who gets off on activating random people's laptop webcams, there are again tens of thousands, if not millions, of people on the Internet with webcams on their systems. The odds of them selecting yours is just this side of zero.

    Just because there were a few perverts working for a school system in PA doesn't mean that just anyone can, or even wants to, activate your webcam to see what you're doing. The PA Perverts were using special software to make this possible, and so like said above, if you own your laptop and it wasn't supplied by a school, employer, or government agency, you should be fine. In the event it was supplied by one of those groups, circumventing the webcam may actually constitute a breach of contract, and be grounds for disciplinary actions up to termination.

    You can complain all you want about how it's a violation of your privacy, and I'll not only agree with you, I'll raise you the fact that it's demoralizing, and the benefits don't even come close to approaching the drawbacks. Maybe you catch a few people playing solitaire or checking facebook during work hours. Is that really worth the hit to productivity caused by people who resent being spied on? I'd say no, but in most countries, the legal system has said it's within the employer's rights to do so.

    Moral of the story here is though, that you're being paranoid. With all the free flowing porn out there, no one cares about hacking into your webcam unless you give them a reason to take an interest in you. Just let it go.
     
  8. Mikuro

    Mikuro Crotchety UI Nitpicker

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    I guess you guys have never heard of The Lulz. People do a lot for them, I'm told.

    Seriously, "nobody gives a damn about me" is not a good personal security policy.
     
  9. ElDiabloConCaca

    ElDiabloConCaca U.S.D.A. Prime

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    No, it's not -- but going to the other extreme is also just as poor a policy as well.

    One deadbolt on your front door is relatively acceptable security (much like any Mac computer out-of-the-box). While it's technically feasible and would increase your security, you could also put seven more deadbolts on the door, nail the door shut, and prop a chair under the doorknob as well. What's the result? Increased security! Is it reasonable? Hell, no!

    Keeping a good lookout while you're walking across the street is reasonable security to ensure you make it safely to the other side. While it's technically feasible to wear a blast-proof suit while doing so, and would greatly increase chances of survival of being hit by a car, it's just way out of the realm of reason to do so.

    Paranoia will make you much, much safer in any situation at the expense of your mental health. No one cares about your Word documents full of family recipes, your travel photos in iPhoto, nor your college essays... there are bigger fish to fry (erm, there are better targets for malicious activity). It has been said that obscurity is no substitute for security, but it certainly helps and most definitely lowers your chances of being hacked and makes the reward of hacking you relatively nil.

    If he's worried about someone watching through the webcam, put a piece of tape over the webcam or install the sliding blinder I linked to. If he's worried about someone listening through the microphone, change the sound input to "None" in the Sound pane of the System Preferences.

    Without any evidence of active or historical attacks on the computer, there is no reason to go WAY overboard with security. The Mac is secure enough in this regard as it came out-of-the-box. Instead of spending days trying to "harden" my computer, I would rather put that kind of effort into more deadbolts on my front door.
     
  10. scott_billings

    scott_billings Registered

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    Like already said, I'm not saying that you should rely on it completely for your security, but unless you do something to draw attention to yourself by the wrong people, the odds of you being targeted are pretty remote.

    The problem really isn't with the initial question, it's how the OP kept pressing the issue for 3-4 more posts. That's getting into the danger zone for mental disorder. Most people would have accepted the first post saying that it was a baseless fear, but I could see maybe one follow up question. However, when that is met with basically the same answer again, yet persist still, it's time to bring out the Lost in Space robot.

    And security through obscurity isn't what you would want to rely on as your primary line of defense, but security is basically a series of layers, and obscurity is just one more layer.
     
  11. Giaguara

    Giaguara Chmod 760 Staff Member Mod

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    In activity monitor or process list you'd basically look for unknown processes (which processes are known and associated with which app just takes time to figure out). Hm - I guess that one is more practical to do when you know what processes are there normally.

    You could also disable the services for iSight;

    In Terminal

    Code:
    sudo launchctl unload -w com.apple.IIDCAssistant.plist 
    NSA has also a few other tips that aren't limited to iSight but may be practical to apply in this situation.
     

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