There is one foolproof way to avoid an increasingly terrifying group of perverted cyberspies who are hijacking (mostly) women's computer cameras: Buy a new computer that has a light that goes on whenever your webcam is in use, whether you know it or not. [Update: Tape also works.] Ars Technica's Nate Anderson details "the Internet's Wild West" of remote administration tools (RAT), which are as scary for their description of female hacking victims as "slaves" as they are vulnerable to the little known little green light, which is installed on all Macbooks. "If someone release[s] soft[ware] which will disable the led cam light he will be the richest man in HF [Hack Forums]!!!" wrote one user on Hack Forums.
The whole thing is as terrifying as it sounds, as you can see in the clip of the RAT process in action below. But thanks to the increasing popularity of the notification light being built into an increasing number of newer laptops and computers, there's a way to fight back. Of course, these creeps still try to get around that: "The first time I use a slaves cam tho I send a fake message saying something like the cams software is updating and the light may come on and go off periodically," wrote another user on Hack Forums. Others keep lists of computers that still don't have the lights. And there are already tons of photos of women available on the Hack Forums for the picking. Also, RAT-ing extends far beyond webcam spying. These hackers also search a computer for porn and other illicit photographs. These RATs aren't going anywhere. In addition to keeping an eye out for that webcam light, there are some other things people can do to avoid the uncomfortable situation, as Anderson explains:
Use a solid anti-malware program, keep your operating system updated, and make sure plugins (especially Flash and Java) aren't out of date. Don't visit dodgy forums or buy dodgy items, don't click dodgy attachments in e-mail, and don't download dodgy torrents. Such steps won't stop every attack, but they will foil many casual users looking to add a few more slaves to their collections.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.