Is the Government Spying On You Through Your Own Computer’s Webcam Or Microphone?

Government – Or Private Individuals – May Be Watching and Listening

We documented earlier today that – if you are near your smart phone – the NSA or private parties could remotely activate your microphone and camera and spy on you.

This post shows that the same is true for our computer.

Initially, the NSA built backdoors into the world’s most popular software program – Microsoft Windows – by 1999.

A top expert in the ‘microprocessors’ or ‘chips’ inside every computer – having helped start two semiconductor companies and a supercomputer firm – says:

He would be “surprised” if the US National Security Agency was not embedding “back doors” inside chips produced by Intel and AMD, two of the world’s largest semiconductor firms, giving them the possibility to access and control machines.

And a government expert told the Washington Post that the government “quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type” (confirmed). Even that is just “the tip of the iceberg”, according to a congress member briefed on the NSA’s spying program.

The New York Times reported in 2011 that German police were using spyware to turn on the webcam and microphone on peoples’ computers:

A group that calls itself the Chaos Computer Club prompted a public outcry here recently when it discovered that German state investigators were using spying software capable of turning a computer’s webcam and microphone into a sophisticated surveillance device.

The club …announced last Saturday it had analyzed the hard drives of people who had been investigated and discovered that they were infected with a Trojan horse program that gave the police the ability to log keystrokes, capture screenshots and activate cameras and microphones.

Reuters documented last year that the U.S. and Israeli governments can remotely turn on a computer’s microphone:

Evidence suggest that the virus, dubbed Flame, may have been built on behalf of the same nation or nations that commissioned the Stuxnet worm that attacked Iran’s nuclear program in 2010 [i.e. the U.S. and Israel], according to Kaspersky Lab, the Russian cyber security software maker that took credit for discovering the infections.

Kaspersky researchers said they have yet to determine whether Flame had a specific mission like Stuxnet, and declined to say who they think built it.

Cyber security experts said the discovery publicly demonstrates what experts privy to classified information have long known: that nations have been using pieces of malicious computer code as weapons to promote their security interests for several years.

***

The virus contains about 20 times as much code as Stuxnet, which caused centrifuges to fail at the Iranian enrichment facility it attacked. It has about 100 times as much code as a typical virus designed to steal financial information, said Kaspersky Lab senior researcher Roel Schouwenberg.

Flame can gather data files, remotely change settings on computers, turn on PC microphones to record conversations, take screen shots and log instant messaging chats.

Kaspersky Lab said Flame and Stuxnet appear to infect machines by exploiting the same flaw in the Windows operating system and that both viruses employ a similar way of spreading.

***

“The scary thing for me is: if this is what they were capable of five years ago, I can only think what they are developing now,” Mohan Koo, managing director of British-based Dtex Systems cyber security company.

PC Magazine tech columnist John Dvorak writes:

From what we know the NSA has back door access into Apple, Microsoft, and Google. What kind of access we don’t know, but let us assume it is similar to what they did about 7 years ago to AT&T. They had a secret room at Fulsom St. in San Francisco and the AT&T engineers had no control and no access to a room full of NSA equipment that had direct access to everything AT&T could do.

Microsoft is the source of the operating system for Windows and Windows cell phones. Apple controls the OS for Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Google controls the Chrome OS, Chrome Browser, and Android cell phones. The companies regularly push operating system upgrades and security updates to users on a regular basis.

Imagine however that the NSA has access to these updates at the source and has the ability to alter these update in order to install some sort of spyware on your phone, tablet, or computer. The software could turn on your camera or microphone remotely, read all your private data, or erase everything and brick your phone or computer.

The Wall Street Journal notes:

The FBI develops some hacking tools internally and purchases others from the private sector. With such technology, the bureau can remotely activate the microphones in phones running Google Inc.’s  Android software to record conversations, one former U.S. official said. It can do the same to microphones in laptops without the user knowing, the person said.

A former high-level NSA insider confirmed to us that any computer’s microphone can be remotely accessed.

Moreover – as documented by Microsoft, Ars Technica, CNET, the Register, Sydney Morning Herald, AP and many other sources – private parties can turn on your computer’s microphone and camera as well.

Cracked noted in 2010:

All sorts of programs are available to let you remotely commandeer a webcam, and many of them are free. Simple versions will just take photos or videos when they detect movement, but more complex software will send you an e-mail when the computer you’ve installed the program on is in use, so you can immediately login and control the webcam without the hassle of having to stare at an empty room until the person you’re stalking shows up.

The bottom line is that – as with your phone, OnStar type system or other car microphone, Xbox, and other digital recording devices – you shouldn’t say or do anything near your computer that you don’t want shared with the world.

Postscript: You could obviously try to cover your webcam and microphone when you don’t want to use them.

But if you really want privacy, take a lesson from spy movies: Go swimming with the person you want to speak with … since electronics can’t operate in water.

This entry was posted in Politics / World News, Science / Technology. Bookmark the permalink.
  • dredd

    Not every government in history, but most every U.S. government will spy on Americans any which way they can.

    And for the most part, in an increasing degree over time.

    While lying like the fox who gets to “guard” the hen house.

  • wunsacon

    Somebody’s Watching Me (Rockwell):

  • Flyover099

    The Judiafication of our society.

    • TruthHawk

      Zionist bankster global puppetmaster psychopaths never sleep

      • Guest

        x

  • Eric Hodgdon

    Install switches. Rip the damn things out.

  • mando

    arrest these jerks , give them some lengthy jail terms or worse, but our sleazy govt, only does that to us peasants, not their own, we get jail for a little bag of pot, but they can spy, rob and steal and all they get is ostrasized..

    • Socialmedic

      Our “sleazy” government has been bought and paid for by our sleazy corporations.

      • John Little Long

        Hi

        • Johns best friend

          Hi

  • Liberty Girl

    I just read that even Mcafee is handing over info to the gov’t, good grief. And everyone thought I was paranoid when I’d take the battery out of my phone. Did anyone see this Kickstarter? Just became a backer :-)

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/14906322/snoopwall-stop-cyber-spying-snooping-and-stealing

  • 12 trees

    GW — This series on spying is a great public service — your courage and scholarship are truly inspiring!

    Meterwise, we opted out. We also only use a landline and uplug that most of the time, since hardwired handsets are all eavesdropping devices, even hung up. Rumor has it that cordless phone handsets can function in the same way from internal battery unless it is removed. Basically, avoid all cordless communication devices and consider wired phones to be the enemy.

    Regarding previous posts in the series:
    1. It was obvious when James Comey was acting Attorney General that the Bush spydropping workaround involved laundering all messages through Israel. Easy fix, since IDF affiliates were active in development of router software for our system. But consider that the final objective may consist of equal parts information gathering and erasing. This “offshore sterilization” system gives the Ziophiles (ZIP) first option to erase evidence of their vast criminal activities. I am suggesting that you look at this as an architecture of selective and differential information retention/destruction, by original intent, with coverup of ongoing and future crimes central to the concept

    2. The same pseudo-ethnic/religious groups, acting through undue influence on the remnants of what used to be our representative government, have been steadily working to privatize the IRS, in a system that would favor Israeli firms as debt collectors. This was beaten back on the last vote but will keep returning with more and heavier behind the scenes bludgeoning until it passes. You can expect the current undermining of the IRS to be part of that agenda. Once in place, this tax farming system will restore a traditional ZIP revenue stream. Bleeding America bone dry. Cuidado!

  • Brulé Parlesilluminés

    Obviously and so much more !

    Check this out :

    http://www.whale.to/b/akwei.pdf

  • ponerology

    More “news” for the cattle.

  • NewGuy

    Conspiracy theorists eh?? I think the goverment has better things to do with their time and money than watch me play video games on my computer.

    • Guest

      x

  • arma999

    Did we forget the simple MS-tool to figure it out what updates you need ? After some
    crawling in your computer, MS knows exactly what is missing !. One step
    further…you guess it..

  • trustandobeyalways

    so that’s what obama meant by transparency

  • Kimberly Truong

    I just got a new macbook.. the 3rd or 4th day, I noticed the camera light was on… what? So, I went through my computer to see if maybe I might have accidentally turn on the webcam through a chat program or something… nothing. I couldn’t find what program was running to turn that thing on. So, I remember what a friend told me about government spying on you through that. I cut out a tiny square of post it, blacked it out with a marker and stuck it over the camera. A few hours later… it turned off, and never came on again.

    • Guest

      Yeah but your microphone is still turned on…..

    • Sylvy

      holy crap that’s scary!

    • Tera Bea

      The Government has many other means on spying on a person, However if they want to look at my pretty face all day, I could not care less, it would be truly sad, but I really don’t care.

  • ProgrammerTX

    Who authored this article? Organizations “could” or “might” ??? This information would have to evolve to be vague

  • ProgrammerTX

    Who authored this article? A company “might ..an organization “could” This information would have to evolve to be vague.

  • Tera Bea

    This is why I just disable the internet, most of the stuff I do on the internet the government already knows about since it is all, utilities, insurance . credit card and loan payments, I could not care less if they know about these things. Anything else I don’t need the internet so I disable it, Plus I think new’s article like below tend to hype things up that lead people to over think. The government is spying on us even if we are not on our computer’s. We allow them to do this, so lets not act all surprised when they do!

  • the IT guy

    Just FYI everyone, this “evidence” does not support the argument. The evidence on this post shows the malicious code is in the form of spyware (which our antivirus gets rid of or blocks/qaurantines) that would have to be put on a PC to infect it, not by microprocessors or chips. Additionally, AMD and Intel make microprocessors, which move data bits BUT does not store data or “integraded coding!” If possible I would say maybe motherboard manufacturers like ASUS or GigaByte could, but still very little flash/storage memory is put on these to support any video monitoring software. You can Google and find out this info for yourselves. Heck, I can guarantee you Google monitors you more than AMD or Intel.

  • trevor

    these bitches need to get death in prison!!

  • P V

    “But if you really want privacy, take a lesson from spy movies: Go swimming with the person you want to speak with … since electronics can’t operate in water”….

    Don’t be so sure, you’d be amazed what can be done!

  • Danny

    So the NSA has been watching me m*****bate? Pervs…

 

 

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