The FBI Can Activate Your Webcam Without Your Knowing About It

Not too many years ago, a person who put a piece of black electrical tape over his laptop camera lens would be associated with tinfoil hat-wearers. Those who wear aluminum hats might claim they’re trying to block mind control or experimentation efforts by the government or some other nefarious group. Only a tinfoil hat-wearer conspiracy nutjob would put electrical tape over his webcam lens. What is he afraid of? That “The Government” is trying to spy on him? Only a delusional, paranoid schizophrenic, conspiracy theorist would believe in such nonsense.

It turns out that such a fear is not at all unfounded. The Washington Post reported on a case where the FBI was investigating bomb threats made by some guy who called himself Mo. Mo was able to elude authorities until they used a more invasive form of surveillance:

The most powerful FBI surveillance software can covertly download files, photographs and stored e-mails, or even gather real-time images by activating cameras connected to computers, say court documents and people familiar with this technology.

The feds have been able to do this for quite some time:

 The FBI has been able to covertly activate a computer’s camera — without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording — for several years, and has used that technique mainly in terrorism cases or the most serious criminal investigations, said Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, now on the advisory board of Subsentio, a firm that helps telecommunications carriers comply with federal wiretap statutes.

The real story here is not so much that they are still on the lookout for “Mo,” but that the FBI has the capability to activate webcams without the user knowing it, and they’ve been apparently doing this for years. Right now, judges are granting these kinds of search (surveillance) warrants on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes they grant them, and sometimes they say they’re too intrusive and violate the 4th Amendment.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. But our government’s never really been fond of that aphorism. They probably prefer something to the effect of, “It’s not illegal if you don’t get caught.”

H/T:  Liberty Crier