Are your phone camera and microphone spying on you?
Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Viber
Felix Krause described in 2017 that when a user grants an app access to their camera and microphone, the app could do the following:
- Access both the front and the back camera.
- Record you at any time the app is in the foreground.
- Take pictures and videos without telling you.
- Upload the pictures and videos without telling you.
- Upload the pictures/videos it takes immediately.
- Run real-time face recognition to detect facial features or expressions.
- Livestream the camera on to the internet.
- Detect if the user is on their phone alone, or watching together with a second person.
- Upload random frames of the video stream to your web service and run a proper face recognition software which can find existing photos of you on the internet and create a 3D model based on your face.
For instance, here’s a Find my Phone application which a documentary maker installed on a phone, then let someone steal it. After the person stole it, the original owner spied on every moment of the thief’s life through the phone’s camera and microphone.
- Edward Snowden revealed an NSA program called Optic Nerves. The operation was a bulk surveillance program under which they captured webcam images every five minutes from Yahoo users’ video chats and then stored them for future use. It is estimated that between 3% and 11% of the images captured contained “undesirable nudity”.
- Government security agencies like the NSA can also have access to your devices through in-built backdoors. This means that these security agencies can tune in to your phone calls, read your messages, capture pictures of you, stream videos of you, read your emails, steal your files … at any moment they please.
Hackers can also gain access to your device with extraordinary ease via apps, PDF files, multimedia messages and even emojis.
An application called Metasploit on the ethical hacking platform Kali uses an Adobe Reader 9 (which over 60% of users still use) exploit to open a listener (rootkit) on the user’s computer. You alter the PDF with the program, send the user the malicious file, they open it, and hey presto – you have total control over their device remotely.
Once a user opens this PDF file, the hacker can then:
- Install whatever software/app they like on the user’s device.
- Use a keylogger to grab all of their passwords.
- Steal all documents from the device.
- Take pictures and stream videos from their camera.
- Capture past or live audio from the microphone.
- Upload incriminating images/documents to their PC, and notify the police.
And, if it’s not enough that your phone is tracking you – surveillance cameras in shops and streets are tracking you, too
- You might even be on this website, InSeCam, which allows ordinary people online to watch surveillance cameras free of charge. It even allows you to search cameras by location, city, time zone, device manufacturer, and specify whether you want to see a kitchen, bar, restaurant or bedroom.
more on privacy in this IMS blog
more on surveillance in this IMS blog