Webcam Spying

33 Writing Contests in October 2019 - No entry fees

What bias in favour of debuts?

Not open for further replies.

Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
As detailed elsewhere, I’ve recently acquired a new laptop.

My Acer Aspire 3 A315-32-P71F is blood-red, which inspired me to name it The Red Devil, fitting in with my pen name of Augustus Devilheart. It’s lighter and slimmer than my old Aspire 5735z because it doesn’t have an optical drive. As most people download or stream films and music these days, it’s actually tricky to find models that still have a CD/DVD drive.

What is does have, that the old laptop didn’t, is a webcam. The first thing I did was cover it over with a patch of black electrical insulating tape!

Here’s why. Webcams can be used honestly by householders to act as security cameras to monitor their home, as described in this article:

Turn Your Webcam Into a Spy Camera with These Free Apps

But, a webcam is a way for hackers to infiltrate your life. I used this as a plot device in one of my Cornish Detective novels, in which the coppers realised that they were under surveillance by a married couple suspected of murder, trained secret agents who’d been fired from MI5 for running their own operations; the hunter became the hunted.

If you want creepy proof of what can happen, watch these videos:

The same thing applies to your smartphone:

The Dangers of Webcam Spying and How to Avoid Them

Just because you’re paranoid….

On one of my P.C.s about ten years ago, I noticed the camera came on at all kinds of hours and I could not turn it off. So I guessed it was hacked. I put a black tape over it, but after a while when I removed it, I was not able to use the camera again- it said, no camera found. If ever that happens again, I'm going to call a technician.
Paranoid-me has also turned the mic off.

Then again, smart TVs listen too, or so I'm told. I guess we can't go anywhere where there aren't any ears. If it isn't my phone it'll be the phone of the person next to me. On the up side, I'm fairly sure no one is really interested in my life beyond wanting to sell me stuff. I'm pretty unimportant and fairly boring. As for money to steal? Oh, ha.

Still, I'm cautious when it comes to such things.

My camera is covered as well: a post it sticky note on which I wrote a piece of writing advice.
One reason I taped the lens of my new laptop is that while setting it up an image of me sitting here flashed up. It was only for a tenth of a second. If I hadn't been looking directly at the screen, I'd have missed it. It might be a normal thing to happen, but it was still creepy.

I have good reason to be cautious, as I've been hacked multiple times in the last ten years, probably by an ex-partner who is expert at such things. Computers and smartphones make it easy for the authorities and criminals and even supposed allies to track our activities. We're all targets in the 21st-century.
Meh. The NSA have all my data. I've come to accept that's part of life in the 21st century.
Well, I'm not too keen on someone taking photos of me while I'm picking my nose- or worse... Thank you. And that's precisely what happened- they could take photos of all my room- I saw glimpses of them. I also think I know who it was too- the last person I spoke on Skype with, using the camera of course. Besides, i don't want people to get a hold of my WIP or mss before they are published, just think of the harm they could cause me.
Ugh. How are normal folk supposed to keep on top of all this stuff.
I've learnt my lesson, when I saw the camera eye light up of its own accord, I knew there was something wrong. Instead of covering it up I should have called a technician, because all my files could well have been in danger. But as nothing happened since then, the person who did this obviously did not tamper with my files. I know why this person did it and I know what that person was after... so I let it go.

Actually, it is all tied up with my WIP on demons, but I haven't mentioned this episode in the memoir at all. But since Paul has reminded me of it... I know I really need to include it somewhere. Fortunately, I got rid of that pc in February.
Whenever you are in contact with someone via your pc camera, you give the other person permission to use yours, otherwise you can't see each other. If the other person is skilled, he/she can hack your pc. But I don't know how that's done. I buy my stuff from someone I trust and it's unlikely the techie is the hacker because they respect me as a client.

Anyway, the techie was not involved with the above episode. I had just bought a new pc about 6 years ago (from another firm, also trustworthy but the owner got cancer). At the time, I got my first suspicions of a woman whom I thought had demonic powers and I told a missionary who was visiting our parish, I had known him for some years.

After he went back to his mission he contacted me on skype and again talked to me about this woman. it was immediately after that call that I noticed my camera eye lit up automatically, always. It had to be him trying to see what I was getting up to. So I let the camera "spy" me for a few days, just to convince him I was not using a cauldron and making black magic- Then I had enough, and covered it up.

When months later I took off the cover, I was not able to access my camera. I got my niece, who is a pc wizard, on to it and she said there is no camera, nor can it be installed. So he removed my camera so as not to leave his traces?
I meant techies in general, might be hackers. How could the client be expected to know. And that is one weird story, Eva. Great story material!
Money is a motive. A rogue one could harvest our data to sell on to whomever, without us knowing a thing about it. We don't have to be 'important' for that. I heard my daughter taking a phone call in the other room, heard his voice, knew he was a wrong un, yelled 'end the call!' but no. Too late already. It was a scammer pretending to be the bank and he had plenty of info already, just needed a bit more. Cue emergency cancellations of cards. Cue next day face to face appointment at the branch - lucky if you still HAVE a branch where you live.
I've heard of plenty similar phone calls, @Katie-Ellen Hazeldine. I used to receive a lot of cold calls, as well as fraudulent texts, supposedly sent from my bank, until I joined a no-call list—which, to my amazement, actually worked! I get maybe ten cold calls or texts yearly now.

Where I live in Cornwall, near to Saint Columb Major, the only two banks in town have closed in the last five years. One is rented to a healthcare business, the other is being converted into a private dwelling. Two weeks ago, the post office closed, thanks to the building owner evicting them. With just one ATM in the foyer of the only supermarket, St. Columb is starting to feel like a ghost town.

Such situations are not uncommon in the recession, but it does mean that people do more transactions online, which can be risky. I've taken to using false names for Amazon and eBay, which helps me to weed out emails containing malware sent to me as Paul.
It's bad, Paul, and I think you're wise to be so cautious. Global is good but globalism is something different, and cuts the heart out of places, and is disempowering us in the process.
A trick I learnt from someone who worked as a cold caller (for a UK bank, trying to flog life insurance policies), was to say you were emigrating soon. This fib takes your name off their list. It also worked when I lived in America, and from my accent, I sounded convincing saying I was returning to the UK.
A trick I learnt from someone who worked as a cold caller (for a UK bank, trying to flog life insurance policies), was to say you were emigrating soon. This fib takes your name off their list. It also worked when I lived in America, and from my accent, I sounded convincing saying I was returning to the UK.

I'll add that one to my repertoire. Thank you.
But, a webcam is a way for hackers to infiltrate your life.

I want to say that I'm not bothered; that I've nothing to hide. But there are always times and things that should be guarded, right? And it's not enough to say that if something bad did happen to me then it would give me something interesting to write about (my standard response) because there are some things that are so potentially traumatic that they change a person. I've been fortunate in life; you might even say blessed, but it doesn't take much to tip a dream over the edge into a nightmare.

Thanks for making me think seriously about this, Paul - appreciated.


right, where did I put that electrician's tape ...
I've found answering cold calls in English when I'm in Italy and vice versa in the UK works a treat

I can't pick up my mobile (or cell, depending on your country) to answer, so my carer lets unknown numbers go to voicemail, where my 'Leave a message' is in garbled 'stroke' speak. It's amazing how many telemarketers are scared off by that :) *cue the wicked laugh*!
It's most likely illegal, as it could damage hearing, though I don't know how they'd prove it was you who did it, but one way to get yourself taken off cold call lists is to blow a shrill whistle into the mouthpiece. I knew a lady football referee who did this! She was a formidable woman, whose glare could halt a charging rhino!

Not open for further replies.

33 Writing Contests in October 2019 - No entry fees

What bias in favour of debuts?