Apple recently advised everyone not to cover the camera of their Mac laptops, and rely instead on the camera indicator light.
Find out why Apple is WRONG, and why you need to physically cover your Mac computer’s camera!
Mac Camera Cover : What Is It For?
Cybersecurity specialists have long advocated covering the built-in camera of your computers, not just MacBook laptops or Mac desktops, with a camera cover of some sort.
This prevents hackers from taking over that camera, and secretly recording you. This has implications beyond just recording your embarrassing moments for blackmail.
With access to your laptop camera, hackers can determine when you are away from home, who lives at your home, who you are working with, and even where you currently are.
Apple : Don’t Use A Camera Cover For Your Mac
In their recent HT211148 tech advisory, they asked Mac laptop (MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro) users not to use any camera cover.
Recommended : Warning : Using A Camera Cover Can Damage Your MacBook!
Instead, they recommended that you use these two built-in features for your privacy :
A. The Green Camera Indicator Light
Apple points out that your Mac computer has a camera indicator light that glows green whenever the camera is active.
They also claimed that the camera is designed not to activate unless its indicator light is also turned on.
B. The Camera Access Control
As an additional measure built into macOS Mojave or later, you must give an app permission before it can use your Mac computer’s camera.
To view which apps has access to your Mac computer’s camera, and to revoke any app’s access :
- On your Mac, choose Apple menu
> System Preferences, click Security & Privacy, then click Privacy.
- Select Camera.
- Select the tickbox next to an app to allow it to access your camera.Deselect the tickbox to turn off access for that app.If you turn off access for an app, you’re asked to turn it on again the next time that app tries to use your camera.
Why Apple Is Wrong, And You Need To Cover Your Mac Camera!
Apple fans may hate us for this, but they are wrong. You must physically cover your Mac computer’s camera to protect yourself.
Hackers Always Disable The Indicator Light
Mac computers are not the only ones to feature an indicator light for their built-in cameras. Most computers with a built-in webcam have such an indicator light.
It is, therefore, SOP for hackers to disable the indicator light after gaining control of the camera. Camfecting attacks won’t work if you are aware that the camera is turned on…
Apple asserts that the camera and its indicator light on Mac computers are wired in series, so the camera won’t work if the indicator light is turned off.
However, a 2013 Johns Hopkins University paper showed how it was possible to disable the indicator light of a Mac computer’s webcam, even though the camera module had a “hardware interlock”.
This isn’t just an obscure research subject. The FBI has the capability to covertly activate a computer’s camera without triggering the indicator light, according to Marcus Thomas, the former assistant director of FBI’s Operational Technology Division.
The only ways to prevent such attacks would be to either turn off your computer, or physically cover the camera.
Hackers Won’t Ask You For Permission
Security researcher Ryan Pickren showed in April 2020 how seven flaws in Apple Safari can let malicious websites hijack your camera and microphone to spy on you.
All you have to do is click on a link, and it lets the malicious website gain access to your webcam without asking for permission.
So much for the Mac Camera Access Control feature…
You May Not Notice The Light
Even if the camera indicator light is not disabled, it doesn’t mean you will immediately realise when the light turns on.
By the time you realise the green light is actually glowing, it may already be too late.
This is partly because it emits a steady glow, and doesn’t blink. Of course, a blinking light is bloody irritating, but we are more likely to notice it than a static green glow.
The only way to prevent that is to physically cover the camera.
Hackers Can Turn On Sleeping Or Hibernating Computers
Don’t assume that just because your Mac computer is sleeping or hibernating, hackers cannot access its camera.
They can potentially wake your computer, turn on the camera and record from it, with the indicator light turned off.
Security researcher Pedro Vilaça showed in 2015 how it was possible to remotely “root” and take over a Mac computer after it wakes up from sleep mode of 30 seconds or longer.
Irrespective of the method used, once hackers gain control of your computer, they can turn on its Wake On LAN (WOL) feature to remotely wake up your computer, like what the Ryuk ransomware does.
The only way to prevent that is to turn off your computer, or physically cover the camera.
Cybercriminals Can Trick You With A Fake Blackmail
Even if cybercriminals are unable to access your camera, they can still trick you into believing they somehow took compromising photos or videos from it.
They send out thousands of spam emails every day to trick people into believing they have been caught on camera.
People who don’t use a camera cover can be convinced into believing that their webcams were somehow compromised, and tricked into paying up to avoid exposure.
The only way to prevent that is to physically cover the camera.
The Best Way To Cover Your Mac Computer Camera
While we strongly advise you to cover your Mac computer camera, that does not mean you should risk damaging your display.
Laptop Computers (MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro)
According to Apple, we should not use any camera cover that is more than 0.1 mm thick. That basically rules out any camera cover, because it is impossible to make one that thin.
They also advise again using anything that leaves an adhesive residue. So that means cellophane tape (Scotch tape) and packaging tape should be avoided.
So here are the best options for you to consider, based on your requirements :
- If you don’t intend to use the camera at all
a) Use your laptop in clamshell mode, with a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse
b) Cover the camera with masking tape, which is gentle and leaves no residue
- If you plan to use the camera
– Cut a small piece of sticky note, so that there is an adhesive part and a non-adhesive part.
– Alternatively, cut a piece of masking tape, and fold part of it to create a non-adhesive portion.
– Cover the camera with the adhesive part
– You can then use the non-adhesive portion to pull it off whenever you need to use the camera
Desktop Computers (iMac, iMac Pro)
Desktop computers like the iMac or iMac Pro don’t have to worry about damaging their displays with camera covers of any thickness.
We therefore recommend using a proper camera cover that slides to let you use the camera whenever you want to, and physically cover it whenever you don’t.
Just make sure the camera cover does not use excessively strong adhesive, or leaves a residue that will require using solvent to remove, which could damage the display coating!
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