If you have visited your Facebook, Twitter or any other social media in the past 48 hours, you would have seen a picture that is going viral for simple little details, ones that it was not intended for. The picture was posted by Mark Zuckerberg on his Facebook account and celebrates the growing success of Instagram which is owned by Facebook.
Few hours later, Chris Olson took the screenshot of picture and posted it on Twitter highlighting the part where laptop is placed. If you zoom in and enhance the resolution, you can easily see the tape covering camera and microphone jack of the laptop.
Publications like New York Times, Huffington Post, Fortune, Telegraph and hundreds of other took to their websites and social medias to start a debate that focuses on the issue of privacy faced by every single individual who owns modern technology. While some are calling Zuckerberg paranoid, most believe that even one of the most sophisticated tech person on earth cannot fight cyber hacking through softwares no matter how advanced.
Looking at the picture, it hit a little too close to the home since I am one of those people who has not only taped over her own laptop camera but of siblings too. Seeing all those spy movies and hacking TV shows, where the bad guys can listen in on the good guys by remotely accessing their webcam and microphone through trojans made me concerned. While, my empty bank account and current ‘broke’ situation automatically shield me from the eyes of hackers, Zuckerberg has every reason to stay hidden from intruders who might be after his billions or juicy details of his personal life given his public figure status.
Security concerns are real in today’s world and ever since 9/11, American government had been trying to build a mass surveillance program that can tap into anyone’s personal and professional email accounts, text messages, phone calls, internet history and a lot more. If we go back three years, you might remember Edward Snowden, an American computer professional and former CIA, who leaked classified documents from NSA which confirmed everyone’s biggest nightmare that NSA in collaboration with its spy partners was using plug-ins to target computers and hijack webcam and microphones to record conversation without any consent from the targeted person.
While most of the government and security professionals argue that people actually want intelligence organizations to keep them safe from terrorist attacks and major crimes even if it is at the cost of cyber espionage, the fact that the same software, plug-ins and remote access trojans can be used by criminals, hackers and creeps to watch, listen and manipulate innocent lives cannot be ignored.
We all know the famous saying that ‘just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you’, which is why it is not a far-fetched theory that someone right now is creepily looking at you while you sit comfortably in front of your laptop with a bowl of popcorns watching a movie. Even if you have nothing to hide, the safe practice is to stay hidden from prying eyes by using stickers or tapes to cover the camera lens and microphone. You can also use dummy plugs, which can be inserted in the microphone jack to avoid being listened.
While using encryption softwares are costly and too much of a hassle, a piece of tape will cost you nothing while ensuring your safety. Zuckerberg is not the first high profile individual to tape his webcam. Earlier in April, FBI Director James Comey said that he too put a piece of tape over his webcam.
“I saw something in the news, so I copied it. I put a piece of tape — I have obviously a laptop, personal laptop — I put a piece of tape over the camera. Because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their camera,” he said during an address to Kenyon Collegian.