It’s the most foolproof way to approach the problem if you have an external webcam, and works regardless of the hardware or operating system.
There is no good reason, especially in light of the numerous documented cases of webcam spying, to leave an insecure recording device permanently accessible on your computer. No amount of hacking is going to magically plug an unplugged device back in.
This is the solution we use around the How-To Geek offices; we leave the webcams in their usual position atop their respective workstation monitors and then when we need to use them we plug the USB cable into an easily accessible front or top USB port on the said workstation.
In 2013, courtesy of the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, we learned that the NSA had successful programs they used to gain backdoor access to the cameras on i Phones and Blackberries.
In 2014, again courtesy of the Snowden leaks, we learned that the NSA has a host of tools at its disposal to remotely monitor users like “Gumfish”: a malware tool that allows for remote video monitoring via your webcam.
When everyone from the spooks at the NSA to the kid next door has access to tools that can turn a webcam against its owner then the threat is legitimate.
You should, no questions asked, disable or obscure your computer’s webcam. While antivirus isn’t going to detect all of these things, and won’t detect many of the latest ones that are out there, it will at least help in dealing with the possibility of infection through a link or running the wrong executable. The problem is that if the threat is actually the college kid that offers to help people with their IT problems, they can easily whitelist a trojan so an antivirus won’t detect it. You can’t really trust that little icon that says you are secure. For desktop users with external webcams, the easiest solution is to simply unplug the USB webcam.So before you shrug your shoulders and say, “Well the NSA doesn’t care about my boring life, so it doesn’t matter,” understand that while we might all find allegations of government spying the most troubling on a global and intellectual level, the majority of actual webcam spying is carried out by creepy Peeping Toms.So the short of it is: yes, webcam spying is a real threat.This is obviously a benefit (from a privacy standpoint) but you should be aware of it so you’re not left wondering why your mic is dead.This solution isn’t quite as secure or foolproof, but it’s a welcome next step.In 2013, researchers demonstrated that they could activate the webcam on Mac Books without the indicator light turning on, something previously considered impossible.