Do you tape your webcam so that hackers can’t spy on you? Apple says not to!


We are in the middle of a pandemic, and many of us are working from home these days. It is because of technological advances, such as the computer and the Internet, that so many people can work remotely. Let’s not forget the powerful webcam which allows our colleagues, friends and family members to chat with us via video. Hell, even doctors see patients using video chat these days.

Do you know who else likes webcams? The Pirates! Yes, it is possible for infamous people to hack into your computer and access your webcam. Any material connected to the net can be hacked. And no, you can’t trust an activity light – hackers can also turn them off. Look, nobody wants to be watched by a stranger – especially when he is naked or in some other embarrassing situation. Fortunately, something as simple as putting a piece of tape or a privacy shutter (like this one) on the webcam can thwart the bad guys in this regard (the microphone is another story). Unfortunately for those who own Apple laptops, the company warns users against covering their webcam.

Apple explains, “If you close your Mac laptop with a camera cover installed, you may damage your screen because the space between the screen and the keyboard is designed for very tight tolerances. Covering the built-in camera can also interfere with the ambient light sensor and prevent features such as auto brightness and True Tone from working. As an alternative to the camera cover, use the camera light to determine if your camera is active and to decide which applications can use your camera in System Preferences. ”

To be clear, Apple is not saying that covering a webcam itself is bad, but instead, the company warns that a foreign object could damage the computer when the screen is closed. You know what? It makes sense. Third party privacy shutters in particular could be thick enough to break, for example, the screen. After all, this adds pressure that Apple’s engineers hadn’t expected. In addition, Apple warns of anything that can leave adhesive residue, such as tape, to avoid as well.

That said, Apple says that using a piece of paper that’s no thicker than 0.1mm is fine when closing the screen. However, anything thicker should be removed before closing.

Unfortunately, Apple suggests that users rely on the camera light for privacy, and that’s terrible advice. As mentioned earlier, it is absolutely possible that hackers can simultaneously access a webcam while disabling the indicator light. Not to mention that computer users do not constantly look at the computer screen, so it would be very easy for them not to notice that the camera light is on.

So what should Apple do? The same thing that all computer manufacturers should – incorporate a built-in privacy shutter so that users can cover the webcam without the need for tape, paper or some other workaround. They can also implement a hardware kill switch that allows the webcam, microphone, etc. physically unplugged. This is something Purism is already doing with its Linux laptops.

Photo credit: Aleksey Boyko / Shutterstock


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