Last year I described how American comedian Jack Vale had demonstrated how careless Twitter and Instagram users were with their privacy, and duly freaked them out.
Now he’s gone one step further.
In a new video, Vale says he intends to show just how easy it is to hack into someone else’s webcam in order to spy upon them.
Vale isn’t the only one spying on webcams, of course.
Past victims have included Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf, and there have been many reports over the years of hackers exploiting the technology to blackmail young women into posing naked, threatening that they will send other compromising photos to their online friends.
And we shouldn’t forget – although it was done in a different way – the millions of Yahoo users who had their private video conversations monitored by GCHQ.
In the case of the GCHQ snooping on Yahoo webcam chats, it was estimated that up to 11% of them contained “undesirable nudity”.
Fortunately there’s no undesirable nudity in Vale’s video, and I imagine the comedian’s friends and family gave him permission (in retrospect) to hack into their computers and hijack their webcams, but don’t try this at home.
Infecting someone’s computer with malware that can commandeer their webcam is against the law – and could end up with you serving serious time in prison.
For that reason, I would not recommend playing this particular prank on anyone you know.
After all, even if they’re unlikely to call up the cops and file a complaint against you – it’s a gross invasion of privacy, and not the best way to foster trusting relationships.
In short, it’s not clever and it’s definitely not funny.
Of course, if you’re worried about webcam spying there are a number of things you can do.
The simplest is to put a band-aid or post-it note over your computer’s webcam when it’s not in use. No hacker is going to be able to see through that.
Another tell-tale sign that your webcam might be under the control of someone else is if you see it light up unexpectedly when you’re not using it.
Worryingly, however, security researchers last year revealed that it was possible to spy with a webcam without turning on the LED, although in the majority of cases that probably isn’t happening.
And don’t forget – regularly updated security software and patches can help prevent your computer (including your webcam) from becoming infected by malware in the first place.
Building a layered defence, and being careful about what files you open and links you click on could be the best way to protect yourself from being the next victim of a webcam peeping tom.