How to prevent your laptop from secretly recording you

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You’ve probably seen laptops or pictures of laptops with a tape on top of their lids, just above the screen. And it probably may have made you wonder why is it placed at that very spot. Doesn’t it cover the microphone and the webcam? Well, it does and there’s a reason people keep them covered. That reason being security.

If that baffled with your brain, here’s what happened. Ever since a picture of Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, went viral, people have gone paranoid as to what hackers may be capable of.

Mark Zuckerberg posted a picture on Instagram of what seemed like his regular workspace with his laptop in the background. Everything was fine until one Twitter user, @topherolsen made a tweet pointing out that Zuckerberg’s laptop had its webcam and microphone taped up.

It is believed that hackers can hack into your system and gain access to your webcam and microphone and possibly record your actions or conversations. Therefore, by placing a black tape over both, any such action can be prevented. Or can it? Well, it may work for the webcam but not so with the microphone.

Try it yourself. Place a tape over your laptop’s mic and you may even double the layer for added precaution. Open the Voice Recorder app, that comes pre-installed in Windows 10, and record yourself speaking. You may notice your sound may get muffles because of the tape but would still be easily comprehendible by anyone listening even through the tape.

There’s no need to panic now as there are ways you can prevent your laptop from spying on you as you go around your daily routine.

Fool your Audio Driver

If you use pair of headphones or earbuds that have a microphone, you’d probably know that when you connect them to your laptop, it automatically ditches its own microphone and speakers to use the ones on your device. It’s a fairly standard procedure to reduce redundancy and save some energy. What you need to do is:

  1. Get a cheap pair of earbuds that have microphones built-in.
  2. Connect the earbuds with your laptop via the 35mm jack. Keep it connected when you don’t need to use the microphone or speakers.
  3. Cut off the part with the microphone with a pair of scissors. It’s usually on the right bud in a little housing with volume or navigation buttons on it.
    Image: 9to5mac.com

Turn on your Firewall

The only way hackers can gain access to your laptop or any device for that matter is through the network its connected to. While you might be safe at home connected to your personal Wi-Fi. It’s the public networks that you need to be wary of. Thankfully, most operating systems come in-built with a Firewall. You just need to make sure it’s activated. To check and activate Firewall in Windows 10:

  1. Go to Settings >Update&Security >Windows Security and click on Firewall & network protection.
  2. A new Windows Defender window will open, showing the status of Firewall over different types of network. If Firewall is on is written on all Networks then you’re good to go.
  3. If that is not the case, click on the network that doesn’t have firewall enabled and enable it using the toggle switch on the next page. You may need to provide Windows Defender Administrator access to perform this change.

Do not give Unnecessary Permissions

This is more of a self-preventive measure but is equally as important as the other two. Any vital procedure on your laptop requires an Admin access to execute. When you visit a website that requires your webcam or microphone, your browser will ask for your permission before granting access to those websites. Similarly, when you download an app, it has a set of permissions that you must accept to provide it, in order for it to work seamlessly.

What you need to do is just know what you’re doing. If you allow an app or website to gain access to your webcam, make sure you know it’s trusted enough.

Also, keep an eye on the permissions an app requires when you download it. If you think a particular app can work without a microphone or webcam access, deny that permission. Do this and you’ll save yourselves from not only hackers but even scam apps that may be harmful to your computer.

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