Macbook webcams can be remotely activated without any sign


#1

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#2

Umm, Apple, embedded microcontrollers on the USB bus that can be reflashed from userspace? Srlsly?


#3

Apply small post-it square to webcam lens, solved :slight_smile:

Edit: For those with audio concerns, blasting death metal at maximum volume at all times is the best precaution.


#4

He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…


#5

Matchbook covers are thicker.


#6

Years ago, the OLPC (one laptop per child) people solved this problem, by designing the webcam LED so that activating the camera turns on the light. There’s no way to activate the camera without turning on the light, because the two are electrically wired together. Every designer that cares about the user’s privacy should do the same. This isn’t rocket science.


#7

I guess it allows for easy OTA updates of said firmware. Security is always a tradeoff.

Sincerely,
a MBP owner who’ll put some black tape on his webcam tonight.


#8

this was the solution I came up with, too. what I can’t figure out is physically blocking/covering the mic. a lot of audio equipment will disable the internal mic when you jack in an external mic, but not my MacBook. I set the level to zero from the system preferences, but seems anyone with the wherewithal to listen in on me could up the level, also.


#9

The only explanation I can think of is that some product designer, somewhere along the way, perhaps acting on some throwaway note from a focus group session, decided that some people might find the light to be overly bright and distracting and that they needed a way to disable it, just in case.


#10

I admit that’s what I did.


#11

EFF to the rescue! With special, “unhackable” technology!


#12

There’s claims out there that Apple hardware has this same design, but it’s hard to verify. Some say it’s a complete myth, some say only older macbooks have the vulnerability, and others insist every single Apple product with a camera has the led physically wired to the camera.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Most of us probably think of “hardwired” as having an led actually connected in series with the camera sensor but it may turn out that that’s never actually the case, which means there is always the risk of the camera running without the led on. It could be software controlled, or it could be a bad trace on the circuit.


#13

I use black paper tape. Also, they can tap into your mic.


#14

Electrical tape.


#15

What about mic(rophone)?


#16

But how does cover up a mic(rophone) like the camera?


#17

Yeah, I don’t know how to deal with that one since the mic is in the speaker portion. Any suggestions?


#18

I think this is what the Apple hardware people thought they were doing. The “Standby” pin of the iSight CCD sensor is hardwired to the LED, so to turn off the Standby signal you must necessarily light the LED. – reading the article, it turns out that the CCD on the iSight can be programmed to ignore the hardware standby signal from that pin, and instead take it’s cue from an internal register. e.g. the CCD sensor is too versatile and can be programmed to ignore what you might expect was a very low-level “on/off” command.

The problem is that the iSight is on a USB bus that the user can read/write to. It should not be possible to re-flash the iSight firmware using unprivileged user-level commands.


#19

On a MacBook Pro the mic is just above the esc key. Tape or even a couple of layers of tape. It shouldn’t be hard to find out online.


#20

You should try it first. G’head. Put a layer of tape, try recording your voice.

Now try two layers. Three. Then reconsider your options. Foam tape, anyone?