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Stop webcam spies with free, 3-D printed ‘RAT Trap’
A clever, but somewhat cheesy, new way to protect your privacy.
Until now, the more paranoid among us have seen fit to block our computers’ webcams with a bit of tape—or, in your correspondent’s case, a Post-It doodle of the Illuminati pyramid—in order to prevent others from spying with remote administration tools (RATs). Never mind why anyone would want to watch you scroll through Twitter all day: It’s a creepy possibility just the same.
Seeing an opportunity to raise awareness about the very real risk of “ratting,” some Colorado advertising folk came up with a PR campaign and product rolled into one: the RAT TRAP. Shaped like a rat’s head, with the eyes cartoonishly X’d out, it’s a clip that blocks your webcam in style but is easily slid out of the way when you want to take a selfie.
The hacker-foiling concept alone makes the RAT TRAP a nifty novelty for your laptop, but the developers have taken things one step further. Naturally, you can order the product online as you would any similar device, but you can also download a free design file and 3D print the thing yourself. There’s a download for Minecraft available, too.
Remote access tools have been useful for legal file-sharing and whistleblowers, but they’ve also become essential for sophisticated thieves and other cybercriminals, not all of whom are interested in snapping photos with your webcam. The RAT TRAP would instead guard against voyeuristic sex offenders and child pornographers collecting images with such technology. A commenter at Ars Technica speculated that it and similar accessories might be useful in getting kids to actively protect their own privacy.
Just be careful about your microphone—even a blind ratter can hear you.
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'