Illustration by Jason Reed

This free tool can tell when someone accesses your webcam

It beats the heck out of a piece of tape.

 

Andrew Couts

Tech

Published Oct 6, 2016   Updated May 25, 2021, 8:41 pm CDT

Someone may be watching you through your webcam right this second. Fortunately, there’s now a tool you can use to find out. 

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On Thursday, Patrick Wardle, a former National Security Agency staffer, debuted OverSight, a free tool for Mac that notifies you anytime something attempts to access your laptop’s webcam or microphone. 

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Historically, privacy conscious people have placed tape or stickers over their laptop’s webcam to keep prying eyes from looking in on, well, whatever they’re doing in front of their computer. OverSight does one better by protecting your microphone in addition to the webcam, which a piece of tape cannot do.

“OverSight constantly monitors a system, alerting a user whenever the internal microphone is activated, or the built-in webcam is accessed,” the project’s site reads. “And yes, while the webcam’s LED will turn on whenever a session is initially started, new research has shown that malware can surreptitious piggyback into such existing sessions (FaceTime, Sykpe, Google Hangouts, etc.) and record both audio and video—without fear of detection.”

OverSight notifications will pop up anytime your webcam or microphone are activated, by you or anyone else. It will also alert you if malware on your computer is attempting to access these systems. 

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Of course, no piece of software is entirely foolproof, and OverSight is no exception. 

“As with any security tool,” OverSight’s site says, “direct or proactive attempts to specifically bypass OverSight’s protections will likely succeed.”

So, maybe don’t throw away that piece of tape just yet.

H/T 9to5Mac

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*First Published: Oct 6, 2016, 4:20 pm CDT