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Chrome Discovery Gives More Reason To Cover Your Laptop Camera

By June 14, 2017March 1st, 2023Cybersecurity

An AOL developer named Ran Bar-Zik has unearthed a disturbing flaw in Chrome that may make you rethink using Google’s web browser.

The issue revolves around a website’s ability to activate your camera and audio recorder. Google uses an API which legitimate developers call, that displays a distinctive red dot on the browser tab when the page in question activates your laptop’s camera and recording equipment (like it does when you activate a video call via a Google Hangout page, for example).

The problem is that this API is not required to be used, and an enterprising hacker can use malicious JavaScript to activate your camera without notifying you, and without any visible indication that the camera is on.

From a practical standpoint, that means that any webmaster using the code could spy on you, and you’d be none the wiser. Worse, although Google has been informed of this flaw, they’ve decided that it’s not a critical security issue, so there are no immediate plans to issue a patch to correct it.

As a user, you don’t really have many good options here, except to disable your equipment or cover the camera when you’re not actively using it.

Neither of these are perfect options. If a hacker can remote-activate the camera, then they can also enable it, even if you’ve disabled it electronically or covered your camera lens. These measures also don’t prevent a hacker from listening in on you and everyone in the immediate vicinity of your laptop.

These kinds of dangers are becoming increasingly common. Just last year, Samsung got into hot water over the fact that its Smart TV’s record everything said in their vicinity, and that data is saved on a Samsung server where it could potentially be captured by hackers, and Amazon’s Echo has made the news for similar reasons.

There are no easy answers or fixes here, so users beware.

Chris Forte

Chris Forte, President and CEO of Olmec Systems, has been in the MSP workspace for the past 25 years. Chris earned his Master’s Degree from West Virginia University, graduating Magna Cum Laude. He was a past member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a current member of the New Jersey Power Partners and Executive Association of New Jersey, where he has previously served on its board of directors. In his spare time, Chris enjoys traveling with his family. He also admits to being a struggling golfer and avid watcher of college football and basketball. He currently lives in Boonton Township, NJ with his wife, two daughters, son, and black lab Luna.