The RATs Who Can Control Your Webcam

The RATs Who Can Control Your Webcam

A disturbing new article by Nate Anderson at arstechnica – details the tool that can provide unauthorized access to your webcam and how it is being used.

“See! That sh*t keeps popping up on my f*****g computer!” says a blond woman as she leans back on a couch, bottle-feeding a baby on her lap.

The woman is visible from thousands of miles away on a hacker’s computer. The hacker has infected her machine with a remote administration tool (RAT) that gives him access to the woman’s screen, to her webcam, to her files, to her microphone. He watches her and the baby through a small control window open on his Windows PC, then he decides to have a little fun. He enters a series of shock and pornographic websites and watches them appear on the woman’s computer.

The woman is startled. “Did it scare you?” she asks someone off camera. A young man steps into the webcam frame. “Yes,” he says. Both stare at the computer in horrified fascination. A picture of old naked men appears in their Web browser, then vanishes as a McAfee security product blocks a “dangerous site.”

“I think someone hacked into our computer,” says the young man.

Far away, the hacker opens his “Fun Manager” control panel, which provides a host of tools for messing with his RAT victims. He can hide their Windows “Start” button or the taskbar or the clock or the desktop, badly confusing many casual Windows users. He can have their computer speak to them. Instead, he settles for popping open the remote computer’s optical drive.

Even over the webcam, the sound of shock is clear. “Stay right here,” says the woman.

“Whoa!… the DVD thing just opened,” says the young man.

The hacker sends the pair a message that reads “achoo!” and the young man laughs in astonishment. “Disconnect from the Internet,” he says. “Your laptop’s going to go kaboom next.”
Meet the men who spy on women through their webcams | ARS Technia | Nate Anderson Mar 10 2013

Stemming the proliferation of RAT tools is an impossibility — there are too many and “source code is in the wild.” But, advises Ars Technica, there are some basic precautions one can take to avoid ratter slavery (which largely boil down to “avoiding dodgy stuff”):

Use a solid anti-malware program, keep your operating system updated, and make sure plugins (especially Flash and Java) aren’t out of date. Don’t visit dodgy forums or buy dodgy items, don’t click dodgy attachments in e-mail, and don’t download dodgy torrents. Such steps won’t stop every attack, but they will foil many casual users looking to add a few more slaves to their collections.
How hackers spy on women through their webcams | Salon | NATASHA LENNARD Mar 11 2013

There is one foolproof way to avoid an increasingly terrifying group of perverted cyberspies who are hijacking (mostly) women’s computer cameras: Buy a new computer that has a light that goes on whenever your webcam is in use, whether you know it or not. [Update: Tape also works.] Ars Technica’s Nate Anderson details “the Internet’s Wild West” of remote administration tools (RAT), which are as scary for their description of female hacking victims as “slaves” as they are vulnerable to the little known little green light, which is installed on all Macbooks. “If someone release[s] soft[ware] which will disable the led cam light he will be the richest man in HF [Hack Forums]!!!” wrote one user on Hack Forums.
How Women Can Stop Webcam Hacker Creeps from Watching You | | REBECCA GREENFIELD Mar 11 2013

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24 thoughts on “The RATs Who Can Control Your Webcam”

  1. I almost commented when I realized how retorted and unknowing these people really are. Even tho OP is/are posting like an 2001 noober.

  2. No, you can't unplug it, but you can remove it from your startup and disable any webcam programs you have when you aren't using them. The piece of tape over the camera lens is the easiest way, but the problems they cause on your computer are something else. Clean your computer everytime you use it, have good protection software, and don't go anywhere that you even have the slightest idea might be hinky.

  3. No, you can't unplug it, but you can remove it from your startup and disable any webcam programs you have when you aren't using them. The piece of tape over the camera lens is the easiest way, but the problems they cause on your computer are something else. Clean your computer everytime you use it, have good protection software, and don't go anywhere that you even have the slightest idea might be hinky.

  4. I say bring back privacy shields to discourage this ever growing army of rats. I always wondered why webcam privacy shields were discontinued in newer type webcams. It seems like webcam companies and/or majority of customers don’t really care about privacy or it’s a cost/benefit factor. I remember looking at several webcam reviews and no mention of privacy shields. The C600 is the last Logitech webcam that I’m aware that had a privacy shield compared to the new C920 which does not. Privacy shields avoid putting a sticky which can dirty the outer lens and if properly designed can have an integrated microphone switch.
    The alternative is to unplug your webcam when you don’t use it. Being that mine is plugged at a PC back port this is not very convenient. In the mean time, I’m waiting for webcam companies to catch up.

  5. You’re only 14 years too late releasing this brand new news. “SUB7” was released in 1999 which was a trojan dumper that dudes could control your web cam back then. Do you even lift and read-the-news bro?

  6. have you heard of stick it notes, the small ones that fit perfectly ove rth ecam's lens. or get a sticker square to fit and cover your cam' slens. easily remove when in use and replace after cam use. Acer laptops especially can turn on your cams without you giving it permission even with UAC. somehow it has been programmed to bypass it.

    1. @James Lockwood: That’s actually the only fix listed here that’ll work – at least for the webcam. Everyone turning off their web cams and microphones via computer settings will have the above described look of “shock” when they realize that once connected to your computer, hackers can turn them right back on. The web cam is what this article focuses on, but is the least problem unless it involves some embarrassing material. Between key loggers and any email set to remember your settings, they can clean you out directly or via blackmail. These same apps will work on most mobile phones as well. Food for thought.

  7. On my desktop I have an external web cam. when not in use I turn it to point at the floor or ceiling. In the audio control panel settings I shut off the microphone. If there is any suspicious activity on my computer or desktop I use Malwarebytes to scan along with my installed AV program. If I still have suspicious activity going on and my comput is not working the way it should, I back up my personal files and such. Then reinstall my operating program. It is a pain to do and takes a few days but at least it gets rid of the bugs that have invaded my computer. Kind of like fumigating for bugs. On the laptop, which has a built in camera I have a flap taped to the top of that I just flip over the web cam when not in use.

  8. what kind of sick mentally ill individuals are out there, prison is too lenient for people like this. that is why I fully support the death penalty.

  9. Actually, yes you can, and it isn't hard. The conector to the webcam is usually in the same connection cable for the screen, Does require some minor disassembly and careful prying/pulling off of the plastic bezel.

  10. The utter filth with which you assault my mind, unprovoked as well, leads me to discontinuing receiving anything from pcpitstop. You take a word for the most intimate of marriage relationship, and throw it out as an expletive of contempt. I can only imagine your mind is so contaminated as to overlook the moral of not contaminating others.

  11. I thought that if you were behind a firewall and a router it was virtually impossible to take over your machine?

  12. I just wondered if a external web cam can show up anything to The Rats o anyone. I only use it when I skype?

  13. Doesn’t just shutting the door over the lens work? I guess you do need to remember to shut it each time you use it though.

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