Security experts in
"The ubiquitous webcam indicator LED is an important privacy feature which provides a visual cue that the camera is turned on," John Hopkins computer science professor
In the MacBook and iMac computers they tooled with, however, they were able to disable that light in a way that could let a camera be remotely controlled by a hacker and then used to take pictures or record video on a victim's machine without them ever becoming aware. By using a Remote Administration Tool, or RAT, the researchers were able to take control of a target's internet-connected computer and then reprogram the factoryinstalled iSight camera's micro-controller to let the camera and light to be activated independently of one another.
"Apple went to some amount of effort to make sure that the LED would turn on whenever the camera was taking images," Checkoway told
"This enables video to be captured without any visual indication to the user," the researchers write.
As early as
"With the webcam comes the opportunity for people to use malicious software to control that webcam," FBI Cyber Unit agent Justin Vellese told
At the time, Vellesse cautioned that that particular type of exploit stood to soon become exponentially more prevalent. As it turns out, however, the
Four months before that, the
It's unclear exactly how often these types of tricks are used by federal agents, but in April a
Checkoway and Brocker did their tinkering with Apple models released before 2008, but say they expect the hack would work with at least some newer computers that contain webcams too.
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