Sunday, June 9, 2013

Preventing a Cyber Creep a story from America Now

If you spotted a 'peeping Tom' looking in a window, you would likely call police. But strangers can now see inside your home with the aid of a computer or smartphone equipped with a built-in camera.
It happens more often than most people realize. However, there are things you can do to protect yourself and your children from the prying eyes of a webcam spy.
If you use an online video chat service like Skype, iChat or Facetime and you have a camera on your computer or smartphone, you can see the person you are talking to across the street, in another city, or around the globe. 
While there are tremendous benefits to this virtual face-to-face technology, if you forget to turn off the internet voice call software when your conversation ends, unknowingly click on malware, or invite a stranger to chat, you may as well open the blinds on your windows and allow a cyber spy to watch whatever is going on inside the privacy of your home.
Astrid Martinez says her 8-year-old daughter, Jolie, uses Skype nearly every day to talk with out-of-state relatives. Jolie's online visits are frequently interrupted by people she doesn't know.
"She's the one that's getting requests every day from strangers, and some of them have names that are explicit," Martinez tells America Now
Accepting one of these requests, could allow a hacker to take control of Jolie's computer.  
According to Theresa Payton, America Now's cyber expert and co-author of the book Protecting Your Internet Identity, there are numerous ways a hacker can access electronic devices and enable them to watch you without your knowledge. 
The most popular way is by sending a virus to a recipient who unknowingly opens it.  
"You may have clicked on a link, opened up an attachment," Payton warns. 
Your laptop could also get into the hands of someone who was able to configure it for remote access.
For example, if you have given your computer to someone to work on it, they could in turn add spy software without your permission.
"The third way is, a lot of times, families leave their instant messaging applications wide open or applications like Skype where the settings are open and because it's on, all it takes is an invitation, and the next thing you know, somebody is looking inside your house," Payton says.
Martinez finds this extremely alarming.
"It is scary; she has a computer in her room that is on all night, it's in her bedroom where she undresses, she goes to bed, and to know that someone may have access to her -- be in there with her -- that's scary," Martinez says. 
A teacher, who requested to remain anonymous, says she was spied on at home with her work-issued computer after disagreeing with new policies at her school.
She noticed the camera light coming on and off at odd times when she was at home, and she wasn't even using the device.
A friend told her to use a C-SLIDE Webcam Cover.
Think twice before using computers and smartphones in your bedroom.
"You don't want to have this potential for spying whether for audio and/or video in the bedroom where we sleep, we get dressed, we get ready for the day or get ready to end the day," Payton advises.

Instead, use your electronic devices in areas of your home where you're less likely to be engaged in an activity you would be embarrassed for a cyber hacker or anyone else on the web to see, hear or record.
As a parent, Martinez says it's hard trying to stay ahead of computer hackers.  
"Isn't it crazy though everything you have to go through just so you can have a computer with a webcam in your own home?" she says. 
While it may be a daunting chore, double-checking the security settings on your electronic devices may be worth it, if it prevents you or your child from be spied on.

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