Our homes, offices, purses and cars are filled with gadgets that make life more convenient and fun. Unfortunately, with these new devices comes risk of privacy invasion in the form of being unknowingly monitored through a camera or microphone on a device.
If you want to protect your privacy, it is up to you to read the documentation that comes with any device you bring into your home or workspace so you fully understand what features are in the device and the potential consequences of using the device. If you do not have documentation for your device, simply perform an Internet search on the name of your device (followed by the word “documentation”). A few suggestions on how to handle various devices are outlined below. There are many other methods of protecting your privacy so consider these suggestions a first step toward privacy and not complete solutions.
Install updates as they are released. Put the device in a drawer, cell phone signal blocking case, or sound proof case when not in use. Or, review the device documentation for instructions on how to disable the camera and microphone via the interface. Don’t forget, most smart phones allow photos to be taken from either side of the device so if the device is hacked, there is no guarantee that a phone ‘face down’ on the counter is going to protect your privacy.
Keep anti-virus software up to date. Install Windows updates as they are released. Shut down or close your laptop when it is not in use. If your laptop computer has a built in web cam or microphone (read the documentation to find out if it does), cover the web cam lens with a sticker to prevent unwanted recordings when the laptop is in use.
Disabling the microphone is a little trickier. Mute the microphone in a way that is difficult, tedious, or impossible for the hacker to manipulate (like the sticker over the camera lens strategy – unless a hacker is in your house, that sticker is not coming off of the camera lens). One example is disabling the microphone by plugging in a dummy microphone into the microphone port of the computer and disable the microphone through the system BIOS (you get into the BIOS normally by selecting F2 or F12 during boot up to Windows).
If your smart TV has a built in web cam or microphone (read the documentation to find out if it does), cover the camera lens with a sticker to prevent unwanted recordings when the smart TV is in use. Read the documentation for your specific smart TV to determine how to disable the microphone. If you are unable to locate instructions on how to disable the microphone, then simply hire an 80’s big hair band to stand next to you smart TV and sing night and day to drown out any confidential chatter going on in your home.
If you live in a home accessible by a person you do not know or trust (or was at one time accessible by a person you do not know or trust), change the locks when you move in. Periodically search the interior and exterior for things like small cameras, wires, microphones or antennas (ex. pay close attention to areas around windows, behind mirrors, attics, and crawl spaces).