Your Mac Could Be Spying On You

October 07, 2016 2 min read

your mac could be spying on you

Patrick Wardle, a former NASA and NSA employee now working in Research and Development for a security intelligence firm called Synack, just released a paper showing how a new “attack” can record both audio and video of Mac OS X users.

But but but...Macs can’t be hacked, right?!

While Macs are considerably harder to hack than Windows-based PCs, they are not impervious to attacks.  It’s not that Apple computers are getting worse either, but rather hacking keeps evolving and becoming more sophisticated.  

As most hackers will tell you, if it’s connected to the internet, it can be hacked.

Just Who Is This Wardle Guy?

Patrick Wardle, is the Director of Research at Synack.  After getting a Master of Science in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins University, Wardle was briefly an intern at NASA before accepting a nearly 3-year, nondescript job with the NSA.  He went on to become a C-level executive with a few other security firms with close ties to the government. 

What Exactly Does This Malware Do?

mac webcam image hack spy mic microphone

In a nutshell, the malware can record private conversations in both audio and video.  It’s an extremely dangerous type of attack because an awful lot of important conversations now happen during video calls using apps like Facetime and Skype.  

It has to piggyback when the camera is already in use because Macs have a green LED that lights up when the camera is in use.  Although somewhat limiting the attack, an infected user would never know they’re being recorded.

If journalists were being monitored during their calls, it could strain the effectiveness of a free press, for example; and in general, important information during business meetings could be stolen.  

Ways to Stop It

Fortunately, there are a few inexpensive and simplistic ways to stop it:
oversight app stop malicious malware spying webcam mic microphone

Wardle created a free app that monitors your webcam and microphone activities called OverSight.  It notifies you if a malicious program is in use via a popup message, which then gives you the ability to allow or block it from continuing.

silent pocket privacy stickers
The second is the use of webcam privacy stickers.  Silent Pocket has specialized stickers that are designed to be put over webcams, and can be used 1000s of times without leaving any residue on the lens.  While they will not stop your mic from recording, they are an extremely effective and simple way to keep spies from video recording you or your family.

This Problem Will Only Get Worse

While our now connected world gives us greater access to tools and information and makes life more convenient, it also has it downsides.  

The stealing of personal and sensitive data will continue to grow and become more profitable to e-thieves.  We all need to get into the important habits which protect ourselves, our families, and our businesses.

We would strongly suggest you utilize apps such as OverSight, and take such a simple security measure as adding webcam privacy stickers to your smart phones, tablets, and laptops.

There is no such thing as being too careful in our digital age.

Josh Bare
Josh Bare

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