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  1. #1
    New Lounger
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    I have a Dell Inspiron laptop. It has an integrated webcam. Frequently, during various OS operations, the camera will flash and sound a plink. It may simply be periodically testing the device but it appears that it is taking a picture. I have disabled the camera (I never use it and have no need) and it continues. I have checked the system for pictures but find none. I have run five different malware scanners, so I do not think I am infected with a rogue program. I am not normally a paranoid, but this is unnerving. Does anyone have any information as to what the camera might be doing or how to completely disable it? I was reading the other day that one of the cool new features of Windows 8 might be the inclusion of facial recognition software as a security mechanism. Am I alone in thinking that I don't want microsoft to have a physical record of me, in my jammies, everytime i log in to my own computer?

  2. #2
    3 Star Lounger jockmullin's Avatar
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    Small piece of masking tape over the lens should do the trick
    Jock

  3. #3
    New Lounger
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    Either that or chewing gum

  4. #4
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    Oddly enough, I did use the tape. My daughters think I am paranoid beyond all reason. Still, I'm trained to notice odd or quirky behavior in systems. While this isn't a big deal for me, I would really like to get to the bottom of it.

  5. #5
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    I am with you it would definitely bother me also if I saw it doing any type of activity and I had not initiated it myself.
    Have you visited the flash player settings panel? there are settings there for webcams and privacy, you may want to go through those various panels and settings and make sure you have it set to not allow contact with your webcam.
    http://www.macromedia.com/support/do...lp/help05.html
    on the left on that page are the various settings panels. Those settings when adjusted or changed are applied to your computer.
    registered Linux user:476595

  6. #6
    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    You can use a program like Tcpview from Sysinternals to monitor your networking traffic and lookup suspicious activity.
    Or better yet, if you are not using the camara, disable it's associated driver.
    Paranoia is worse than someone spying on you.
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  7. #7
    2 Star Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dataman55 View Post
    Oddly enough, I did use the tape. My daughters think I am paranoid beyond all reason. Still, I'm trained to notice odd or quirky behavior in systems. While this isn't a big deal for me, I would really like to get to the bottom of it.
    You are absolutely correct about being concerned. Not that long ago a school district handed out laptops to students and were in fact spying on them. There is a current court case about this. See this site: http://boingboing.net/2010/02/17/sch...d-student.html
    I'm not suggesting this is your problem but where and when did you get the computer and did you have any recent repair work done on it? I would not trust any big box store or repair shop to prep my machine prior to delivery.

  8. #8
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    electrical tape blends in better. Yes it could be doing something that you don't want it to and if you don't use it, the best advice is to disable it in the hardware manager and disable the driver. It is just a usb device plugged directly into the main board and can be easily unplugged by a decent tech. Most of the time it is plugged in directly under the keyboard next to the keyboard and touchpad ribbon cables. Sometimes it can be disabled in the bios, but most of the time it is just another usb device and is not recognized as anything special by the bios. The microphones can also be remotely activated. Remote desktop utilities are often not seen as viruses so it is possible that someone tweaked the settings to spy on you. Good auditing and tracking software is also well hidden and can be used by Private investigators, high tech stalkers, and others to spy on you. If you are going through a divorce or have some other reason to think that you are being spied upon, I would back up all documents and write down all your passwords then do a complete restore doing what is called a destructive recovery. The manufacturer will have specific instructions about how to do it for your make and model. Windows polls for connected devices, especially usb devices at a regular interval, so it could be nothing. I don't want to make you paranoid, but the mics and camera are a window into your house that aren't that tough for mediocre hackers to get access to, especially if they can have it in their posession for as little as a couple minutes. For your peace of mind, the destructive recovery is the best option and a piece of electrical tape then keep it out of the hands of untrusted people including your kid's friends and the creepy neighbor who begs to borrow your internet for a little while.

  9. #9
    Silver Lounger Banyarola's Avatar
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    Yes it is spying.
    And clean that clutter off the top of your fridge too!
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  10. #10
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    As the joke once ran, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean someone isn't out to get you!" Or, if you prefer, "You'd be paranoid, too, if everyone were after you!"

    Poster RC's suggestion about the flash player settings panel is one of the first places to start. Yet, a Flash or audio user control interface is sometimes bypassed by those who want to provide a reassuring cover capable of fooling most users. Even if you can use the camera, and make photos at will, this does not mean the user control interface behaves properly at other times.

    Poster TheGadgetFixer made some in-depth and excellent points-- the remote software is out there, and has been for years. Even teens are using it, we can be sure.

    Which brings us to motivation. If TheGadgetFixer is intuitively close to the answer, it might have something to do with a prospective court case, pending litigation, divorce, etc.-- somebody may believe (even mistakenly) you are a valuable / interesting / important target. The camera operator, if there is one, may not have any way of knowing in real time what the camera has captured until he gets the file.

    In turn, that brings up Clint Rossmere's suggestion of a packet capture utility-- if anything is definitive, that should give you a reliable basis to determine a camera that goes "click" all by itself is actually the tool of a remote party.

    But I kid you not-- spycraft relies on people's habitual aversion to paying attention, and to question odd things. You have done the right thing by observation, and wondering about the possibilities.

    A final case in point. In 2008, the office of the Dalai Lama was the object of a remote viewing / listening probe thought to have originated in Beijing. The political motivation for monitoring email of the Dalai Lama was certainly present, but the special feature of this probe is it also could activate a camera and microphone on the infected system. The Dalai Lama system was captured when one of the Dalai Lama's special assistants was enticed to visit a web forum to read something "really interesting". After visiting the forum, the aide never imagined his own computer system had been rendered an electronic spy-- not only an email monitoring device, but a viewing and listening post, as well. If the aide communicated with PRC dissidents via camera, PRC security would have both the IP and a facial image, as well as voice signature.

    All to say, in today's world, it pays to be a little suspicious about what you observe. Congratulations for paying attention.

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