Among the NSA's Own Tips for Securing Computers: Remove the Webcam

And if the NSA doesn't trust a piece of hardware, you probably shouldn't either.
More
offthenon.gif

Seems like everything gets hacked these days. Baby monitors. White House employees' personal email. Toilets

If it's connected to the Internet, it seems at least a little vulnerable. 

But surely we can trust that workhorse selfie-generator, the iSight webcam built into the top bezel of Mac laptops. Or... Maybe not. Yesterday, security researchers Steve Glass and Christopher Soghoian were passing around a National Security Administration factsheet with a little bit of advice for Mac users on how to "harden" their computers to attacks.

Among the tips, we find the following suggestion: "Disable Integrated iSight and Sound Input."

"The best way to disable an integrated iSight camera is to have an Apple-certified technician remove it," the NSA writes (emphasis added). Then, you might try "placing opaque tape over the camera" or try the software-only method of removing one of the components of Quicktime's files. And if the NSA doesn't trust a particular piece of hardware can't be used for surveillance, it's probably safe to assume an average user shouldn't either.

The built-in microphone comes under scrutiny, too. The NSA suggests setting the mic input level to zero and removing a file that cripples the sound system.

The rest of the tips are available in this handy, seemingly laminateable PDF. They include firewalling instructions, file deletion suggestions, and several other procedures. In fact, the NSA maintains an archive of factsheets on protecting its employees, contractors, and associates, but you can use it to protect yourself from hackers -- inside or outside the government.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

'Stop Telling Women to Smile'

An artist's campaign to end sexual harassment on the streets of NYC.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In