If you are not using a desktop computer and have not connected an external webcam, there is a good chance that the device you are reading this post has some kind of forward-facing camera. If you have never considered the security implications that may exist and why you might want a webcam cover, this may be something to keep in mind.
I can hear you laughing at yourself now. “Oh, Cam, that̵7;s stupid. You’re just paranoid! “It simply came to our notice then. After all, the webcams on my computers have some kind of light that indicates when they are being used. Sure I would know if anyone had access, right?
No. Hijacking a webcam is called “Camfecting” and it’s a bigger issue than you may realize. Not only can hijackers take over your camera with a single click of a link, but advanced methods make it possible to do so without activating the camera’s “on” light. Someone can look at you right now, and you would have no idea. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.
By 2020, we have all started using our webcams much more often – virtual meetings, online schools, etc. – all mean more time on camera. It’s probably more important now than ever to think about covering that thing when you’re not using it.
Why use a webcam cover?
As I mentioned earlier, bad actors can take control of your webcam quite easily. Clicking on a malicious link in your email or on a website is all that is required – as with many viruses, a single click can run an executable command on your computer that gives remote access to your camera. Like Joanna Stern from Wall Street Journal learned, there is nothing in it.
If you use a desktop computer and have a USB webcam, the best security line is to simply unplug the camera when you are not using it. Of course, it can be painful if your camera is connected to the back of the tower and you have to move a lot of shit to get to it. Doing it daily (or even weekly) would get old fast.
If you are using a laptop, simply do not disconnect the camera as it is physically part of the computer. If you do not have one of the very rare models that come with a built-in camera cover, you will want to add one yourself.
But someone who has remote access to your camera is not the only reason to use a webcam cover. If you, like so many other people in the world, have recently joined more video conferencing sessions, it’s not a bad idea to have your camera covered when you join. This way, even if the camera is “on” by default, you are not on the screen until you are ready – it also gives you an extra chance to double-check what is behind you. You know, anyway.
Just recently I was part of a video call with literally dozens of people when someone joined without realizing that their camera was on (everyone except the presenters had theirs turned off). For several minutes, this person was in sight, doing things that were completely unrelated to the conversation – and everyone could see them. It was nervous.
When they finally realized it, the camera turned off. But if this person had a camera cap, none of it would have happened. Think of it as a safe when joining video calls. Just remember to close it after you end a call!
Okay, but what about other devices like phones?
I’m glad you asked! Almost anything that has a camera has the potential to be compromised. This means that your phone, Amazon Echo or Nest Hub Max, Facebook Portal or almost any other internet connected device can be a problem.
Of course, some of these devices are harder to hijack than others – such as Nest Hubs or Echo devices. You can not install third-party software on these devices, so the methods of attack are different. But if someone gets access to your home network, guess what? It is as simple as a few clicks to activate the camera on these devices as well.
Your phone is a similar issue to a computer: Install dubious software and you may be infected. iOS is usually more secure against this type of thing than Android if you page load apps, but there is always a chance on any platform. iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 both have a new feature that alerts you when an application uses your camera or microphone, and so far there seems to be no way around it. Good.
The bigger problem with covering the phone’s front camera is the location. The camera is generally part of a cluster of other sensors such as ambient light or, in the case of newer iPhones, the infrared camera used for Face ID. Covering any of the sensors surrounding the front camera of your phone can cause problems, so you need to pay attention to that area if you want to use a camera cover. You must also accept the possibility that it may simply not be practical to use a camera cover on your particular mobile phone model. The same goes for laptops with Windows Hello.
Fine – Which Webcam Cover Should I Buy?
The whole concept of a webcam cover is simple: If you physically cover the camera lens, the camera will be useless. It makes so much sense! This can be as simple as putting tape or a sticky note over the camera when not in use (as Mark Zuckerberg famously does), but it is not the most stylish solution. In addition, tape generally leaves some kind of residue, and it will also lose its stickiness after removing it several times.
For some cameras like the popular Logitech C920, you can buy your own cover designed specifically for that model. I picked up that cover for my C920 and have been very happy with it – it fits perfectly and is very easy to open and close without moving the camera. For a touch over eight dollars, it’s a winner. Logitech also sells a version of the C920 that comes with a camera lid.
The best cover for the Logitech C920
For other cameras like your portable webcam, you have many more options. A small generic webcam cover with an image is fairly easy to find, but keep in mind that not all of them are created equal. For example, I picked up EYSOFT camera covers for my laptops, and even if it works well on my Pixelbook, it will simply not stay in place on my Surface Laptop 3.
It is also worth mentioning that there is a risk of potential damage to some laptops when using a webcam cover. For example, many users broke the screen on their MacBook Pros using a webcam cover. This is not a common question, but there is one. Ouch!
Once you have done your homework to ensure that a webcam cover is secure for your specific machine, I recommend that you go with something that uses a metal guard with a magnetic slide instead of the plastic mechanism on the ones I mentioned above. This two-pack from CloudValley marks all the boxes – the magnetized mechanism makes it easier to open and close than to push plastic on plastic. It also comes in four packs if you have a lot of stuff to cover.
The best choice
I’m not saying you have to use a webcam cover. I’m just saying that if someone was staring at your face right now and you had no idea, wouldn ‘t it make you feel at least a little uncomfortable?