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How a MacBook Camera Can Spy Without Lighting Up

Soulskill posted about 9 months ago | from the they-can-see-you-right-now dept.

Privacy 371

New submitter ttyler writes "It turns out a MacBook's built-in camera can be activated without turning on the green LED. An earlier report suggested the FBI could activate a device's camera without having the light turn on, and there was a case in the news where a woman had nude pictures taken of her without her knowledge. The new research out of Johns Hopkins University confirms both situations are possible. All it takes are a few tweaks to the camera's firmware."

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It's pretty simple (5, Insightful)

bhcompy (1877290) | about 9 months ago | (#45731533)

It's pretty simple: if you have a device with a camera, just cover the camera with a little black tape and tada, no more spying

Re:It's pretty simple (5, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | about 9 months ago | (#45731577)

Far simpler for the manufacturer to wake up to what is going on and provide a sliding lens cover and that means you, you big screen smart TV designers.

Re:It's pretty simple (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731599)

You're assuming it's not by design.

Re:It's pretty simple (5, Insightful)

GameMaster (148118) | about 9 months ago | (#45731625)

If they cared even remotely enough to do that, then they would have already hardwired the indicator light to the same power source as the camera so that one couldn't be run without the other regardless of the firmware.

Re:It's pretty simple (4, Informative)

weilawei (897823) | about 9 months ago | (#45731737)

Spoke to an Apple tech just now. It used to be, according to them. They say it isn't anymore.

Re:It's pretty simple (1, Interesting)

csumpi (2258986) | about 9 months ago | (#45732023)

One of them geniuses? And he pulled out the schematics, or showed you the traces on the pcb? Care to share the proof?

Re:It's pretty simple (5, Informative)

weilawei (897823) | about 9 months ago | (#45732093)

You're entirely right--you shouldn't trust hearsay. But additionally, if you look back through my post history, you'll find that I'm not in the habit of making unsubstantiated claims. The truth of the matter is that the guy (a repair tech, with long-time electronics experience, whom I trust to work on my own machines) had to go home. It's that time of the evening. But you're right, don't trust hearsay. Unfortunately, you'll have to wait on the schematics/pictures, whereas, you could probably pop open the machine yourself and take a look see if you're competent enough to understand them in the first place. I suggest you do this if you're skeptical. Heck, you might do us a favor and post them.

Re:It's pretty simple (-1, Troll)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#45731787)

Maybe yo should understand how the camera works be fire making a fool of yourself?

oh, and with those rules of conduct, your games must stink

Re:It's pretty simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731843)

Maybe yo should understand how the camera works be fire making a fool of yourself?

In dead!

Re:It's pretty simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731863)

Actually he has a point. Just connect the led to vc of the camera sensor, so whenever an image is captured led lights up.

Re:It's pretty simple (0)

zlives (2009072) | about 9 months ago | (#45731723)

X-Bone says hi

Re:It's pretty simple (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731755)

Apple shills, ASSEMBLE! Quick, a story about Apple's hardware spying, divert attention to Microsoft!

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about 9 months ago | (#45731849)

X-Bone? I get its some derogatory xbox one thing but what is it supposed to mean? And surely xb1, like ps4, is quicker to type.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#45731795)

People don't want that.
Or more specifically, most people don't want to deal with the extra step.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

owl57 (3467573) | about 9 months ago | (#45732025)

Or more specifically, most people don't want to deal with the extra step.

Why make the step extra? Opening the cover should just launch some app by default. A launcher can even have some image recognition capability to decide if the user's more likely to tweet a picture of his cat or enter some corporate videoconference.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

smash (1351) | about 9 months ago | (#45732173)

So you mean 2 extra steps then? One to open the cover, and another step to close the default app when I want to use something else instead?

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731823)

Oh, the manufacturers know perfectly well. That's why their enterprise-grade teleconferencing cameras (targeted toward senior executives) have sliding lens covers. But when it comes to products for regular peons, their privacy isn't worth the extra 2 cents in parts.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45732117)

The original Apple iSight (external web cam) was built this way. The camera part was built in an aluminum tube and came with a set of pivot arms for mounting it to a display. The front section of the tube could rotate (like a focus ring) and actually closed a mechanical iris in front of the lens. I think the manual actually described that as a privacy feature.

Re:It's pretty simple (4, Funny)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | about 9 months ago | (#45732169)

Far simpler for the manufacturer to wake up to what is going on and provide a sliding lens cover and that means you, you big screen smart TV designers.

There are a ton of 3rd party sliding covers out there for under $10 a piece, google will find them for you no problem.

But what I haven't seen yet is one that doesn't just black out the camera, but instead puts a photo in front of the camera. Imagine a camera slide that forces anyone spying on you to see goatse.cx instead. Just deserts.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 9 months ago | (#45732205)

Get a transparency sheet (to allow light through, but not in any real detail), scale it down, and paste it over. Cheaper than $10 for 10 minutes of your time.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 9 months ago | (#45732261)

Like they had on the original iSight? or on my 13 year old Logitech?

What's mind boggling though is it would probably *less* expensive to just hardwire the LED with the camera itself. If it's being used, light the LED.

Re:It's pretty simple (2)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | about 9 months ago | (#45732305)

I bet it is easier for automated testing. This way they don't need to connect any external equipment to measure if the LED works, just ask the microcontroller in the camera to run an internal diagnostic that checks the the voltage level on the lines to the LED.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 9 months ago | (#45732335)

How would the *insert three-letter-agency here* spy on you then?!

Re:It's pretty simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731593)

My eee has a mechanical slide that covers the camera. It's a great feature, and I'm baffled why it isn't more commonplace.

Re:It's pretty simple (4, Insightful)

wrp103 (583277) | about 9 months ago | (#45731701)

It's pretty simple: if you have a device with a camera, just cover the camera with a little black tape and tada, no more spying

I use a Post-It, with the non-sticky part over the camera hole.

That way, when I actually do want to use the camera, I simply bend the paper back and expose the camera. When I am done, I fold it back. Replacements are pretty simple. One pad should last you a long time. ;^)

Re:It's pretty simple (0)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#45731775)

I just check if the firmware has changed.

Sticky notes? tape? Slashdot - News for mediocre office workers.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 9 months ago | (#45731933)

Okay, Mr. I've-Got-All-The-Answers. How is a small child going to do this? How are you going to guarantee that their parents will know? How are you going tu guarantee it doesn't happen when someone stops actively using the computer, but doesn't shut the lid? This should NOT be possible, in the first place. Requiring a technical workaround or constant checking is NOT a solution.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 9 months ago | (#45731939)

I just check if the firmware has changed.

Sticky notes? tape? Slashdot - News for mediocre office workers.

I wrote my Malware with a hook into the operating system that detects when you're reading the camera firmware to see if it's changed, then it feeds you the unaltered firmware. Plus, I only load my firmware when I want to spy on you, the rest of the time I load up the old firmware.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 9 months ago | (#45731911)

The camera seems the most useless part of a macbook anyway. Just paint over it in black, scuff it with sandpaper, etc. I don't want to see a video of you talking, and you definitely don't want to see a video of me.

Re:It's pretty simple (1, Funny)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 9 months ago | (#45732283)

If it doesn't involve Duck tape and tie-wraps, it's not geeky enough (trying to integrate popsicle sticks in it would be really cool :p

Re:It's pretty simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731743)

Uh huh, just be sure it blocks IR as well.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about 9 months ago | (#45731887)

I made this modification to my macbook pro on the first day. I don't want a camera, and it stands to reason if someone can install keyloggers on my machine, they can compromise any hardware... Unfortunately there's not much to be done for the mic without voiding warranty.

I don't want either of these features, or at least i'm willing to buy special hardware for it if I need it.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 9 months ago | (#45731899)

It's pretty simple: if you have a device with a camera, just cover the camera with a little black tape and tada, no more spying

What about the microphone?

Re:It's pretty simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45732049)

ifixit has a guide to replace the microphone. Just follow the same steps and remove the microphone.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

smash (1351) | about 9 months ago | (#45732187)

I'm sure that will work well with the VOIP I use the machine for.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 9 months ago | (#45732215)

So go ahead and wire in your own switch.

Re:It's pretty simple (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 9 months ago | (#45731909)

Agreed.

That's what one of my colleagues did. I thought he was being maybe just a little *too* much paranoid but admired that he actually did something about it a few months back (instead of just bitching about it.) Looks like he was simply being prudent !

Tape it. (2)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 9 months ago | (#45731541)

Hmm... I stuck a piece of black electrical tape over mine when I got the MacBook.

Re:Tape it. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731851)

I put a backwards mirror over mine so they thought I was spying on them.

Re:Tape it. (5, Funny)

hawguy (1600213) | about 9 months ago | (#45731955)

I put a backwards mirror over mine so they thought I was spying on them.

I make sure I'm naked any time I'm within range of the camera -- anyone that makes the mistake of spying on me will not do it again.

Re:Tape it. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45732119)

I put a backwards mirror over mine so they thought I was spying on them.

I make sure I'm naked any time I'm within range of the camera -- anyone that makes the mistake of spying on me will not do it again.

Don't be so hard on yourself. You have a lovely body.

Re:Tape it. (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 9 months ago | (#45732295)

Your co-workers must really love you.

Lens covers were standard in 1990's (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731563)

Why can't I buy a webcam with a lens cover and no microphone, or a physical on/off switch for the microphone anymore? It's a conspiracy!

Re:Lens covers were standard in 1990's (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 9 months ago | (#45731587)

Drive a sharp nail into the mic port should solve one of your problems.

Re:Lens covers were standard in 1990's (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731605)

My late 90's Logitech not only had a lens cover, but had an option right in the software to disable the camera light.

Re:Lens covers were standard in 1990's (2)

Iniamyen (2440798) | about 9 months ago | (#45731623)

A lens cover would not be compatible with the Apple Aesthetic (TM)

It was at one time (3, Informative)

Anubis350 (772791) | about 9 months ago | (#45731751)

A lens cover would not be compatible with the Apple Aesthetic (TM)

I have an external iSight [wikipedia.org] from way back, it actually does have a close-able lens

Re:Lens covers were standard in 1990's (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731871)

A lens cover would not be compatible with the Apple Aesthetic (TM)

Why not? A white cover with rounded corners . . .

Re:Lens covers were standard in 1990's (1)

koan (80826) | about 9 months ago | (#45731889)

It is a conspiracy, to make your laptop cheaper by getting rid fo rarely used doo dads (like mic switches)
The only other thing I would add is if you're not clever enough to figured out how to disable then you aren't doing anything the NSA cares about.

Re:Lens covers were standard in 1990's (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 9 months ago | (#45731985)

Nope, because stupid people incapable of fully understanding technology never do anything that would get them in trouble, even if it were morally/ethically correct (see whistleblowers). And also, the NSA would only *ever* spy on people were Terrorists and Child Molesters. They'd never collect information on every American citizen they could.

Re:Lens covers were standard in 1990's (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 9 months ago | (#45731979)

Why can't I buy a webcam with a lens cover and no microphone, or a physical on/off switch for the microphone anymore?

I wouldn't trust the switch to actually turn off the microphone any more than I trust the switch that supposedly turns off the WiFi and Bluetooth to actually do so (rather than tell the software to not use them - for the normal stack.)

Even if it DID physically turn off the Microphone, remember that the speakers built into a typical laptop can also act as microphones. If the chip driving them is designed appropriately it can have a stealth listen-through-the-speakers mode.

Good work, JHU guys. Apple, not so much. (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 9 months ago | (#45731603)

I was pretty convinced that I didn't have to put a post-it over my MacBook camera. Guess I'll go ahead and do it after all.

Is your MacBook from before 2008? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731619)

Because those are the ones they found the exploit with.

Re:Is your MacBook from before 2008? (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 9 months ago | (#45731689)

I see nothing in the article to indicate that later models are any more secure. This particular software may not work with them, but I have no confidence that they can't be hacked the same way.

Re:Good work, JHU guys. Apple, not so much. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731997)

See? The JHUs really are out to get you!

Re:Good work, JHU guys. Apple, not so much. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45732235)

Only if your MacBook was made in 2008 or earlier. It doesn't affect anything made recently.

Oh, you were just trying to fault Apple for other peoples crimes. I see now.

Firmware (1)

ClaraBow (212734) | about 9 months ago | (#45731663)

Surely firmware can not be updated/modified without user knowledge, am I wrong?

Re:Firmware (5, Insightful)

jader3rd (2222716) | about 9 months ago | (#45731731)

Surely firmware can not be updated/modified without user knowledge, am I wrong?

Click here to view videos of cute kittens!!!!!!

Re:Firmware (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45732143)

Click here to view videos of cute kittens!!!!!!

OMG, where? You forgot your link!

Re:Firmware (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 9 months ago | (#45731769)

Suuuuuure. You just keep believing that.

Re:Firmware (1)

countach (534280) | about 9 months ago | (#45731875)

You wouldn't think so, but in fairness to Apple, these were pretty old machines, which means they had pretty old versions of OS-X. My guess is Apple closed this bug a long time ago, which is why the researchers had to use old Macs.

Re:Firmware (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45732019)

You wouldn't think so, but in fairness to Apple, these were pretty old machines, which means they had pretty old versions of OS-X. My guess is Apple closed this bug a long time ago, which is why the researchers had to use old Macs.

THIS IS WHAT APPLE USERS ACTUALLY BELIEVE!

Re:Firmware (1)

neonmonk (467567) | about 9 months ago | (#45732293)

Haha, Apple closing a security bug before it's been broadcast all over the internet, for months. Good one. You should write for Leno.

Re:Firmware (1)

tlambert (566799) | about 9 months ago | (#45731907)

Surely firmware can not be updated/modified without user knowledge, am I wrong?

The article used a virtual machine which required privilege to install, and then called it "firmware modified from user space", but actually it was "firmware modified from user space by first escalating privilege".

If you are willing to escalate privilege, you can pretty much do what you want to any USB devices firmware, assuming it's not in ROM and not hardware fused to make it non-updateable.

Re:Firmware (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 9 months ago | (#45731999)

If you are willing to escalate privilege, you can pretty much do what you want to any USB devices firmware, assuming it's not in ROM and not hardware fused to make it non-updateable.

I believe the assumption here is that it's not difficult for TPTB to get their firmware onto your computer. In an enterprise it's slightly tricky to do it without risk of being caught. Where individual users are concerned there is little risk in leaning on the OS vendor to deliver to you and you alone an additional payload right in a signed patch package.

Re:Firmware (1)

tibman (623933) | about 9 months ago | (#45732095)

Pretty sure that's not how the FBI does it : )

Re:Firmware (2)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 9 months ago | (#45732325)

ASUSupdate is able to flash the BIOS without giving it admin rights, so It could be used silently I guess (on Windows XP at least last time I did it).

For other systems (*NIX including Mac OS), just make it part of a system update.

Dont forget about Sound (5, Insightful)

bobjr94 (1120555) | about 9 months ago | (#45731681)

Since built in mics have been around much longer than built in webcams, no doubt they were hacked a long time ago. They have no way of alerting the users if they are active or not. Im sure many laptops, tablets, phones, game systems, cars electronics (like onstar & bluetooth) and even smart tv's have government spyware to record/monitor conversations and looking for keywords. Besides attaching a psychical switch yourself to a mic, not much you can do, a piece of tape wont help much.

Re:Dont forget about Sound (2)

weilawei (897823) | about 9 months ago | (#45731761)

Yep, my T60, even with the mic disabled in BIOS, will still record audio. Was messing with it one day and realized that Audacity would happily record from it anyway when supposedly "disabled", albeit with much lower gain.

Re:Dont forget about Sound (2)

hey! (33014) | about 9 months ago | (#45732299)

If this is in linux, this might have something to do with ACPI [wikipedia.org] . The firmware has a table called the DSDT [01.org] (Differentiated System Description Table) which basically tells the operating system how to turn integrated peripherals like network cards off and on when going to sleep or waking up.

One peculiarity of the DSDT is that the ACPI specification allows it to include different instructions to different operating systems, and this is a common source of problems in linux installs. Some manufacturers (Toshiba) deliberately sabotage non-Windows operating systems in their DSDTs. Others simply deliver DSDTs that are untested and potentially buggy in non-windows operating systems.

Anyhow, an OS can switch devices off an on itself using ACPI, so I think ACPI may trump BIOS settings. One way to test this is to boot with ACPI turned off. If this fixes the problem of the mic being available even when disabled in BIOS, then you have and ACPI/DSDT problem. If not, then it is a design flaw in the machine's design (e.g. turning the mic off in BIOS simply turns the gain to 0) and you wasted your time reading this post.

Re:Dont forget about Sound (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731801)

The newer notebooks don't even have a hardware bypass like older ones do. The built-in mic and speakers only shut off when a software indicator tells them a plug is inserted into the corresponding socket. They could still be active without the user knowing it.

Re:Dont forget about Sound (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45732239)

Besides attaching a psychical switch yourself to a mic, not much you can do, a piece of tape wont help much.

Great, and if I leave my psychical switch on by accident they'll be able to hear my thoughts!

Same power source (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731745)

Weren't people claiming macbook camera light indicator was on the same power source as the camera itself and that it was thus impossible to turn on the camera without turning on the light indicator? That's obviously not the case. Glad I stuck a postit in front of the lens. And people were calling me paranoid.

Re:Same power source (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 9 months ago | (#45732127)

Weren't people claiming macbook camera light indicator was on the same power source as the camera itself and that it was thus impossible to turn on the camera without turning on the light indicator? That's obviously not the case. Glad I stuck a postit in front of the lens. And people were calling me paranoid.

That's the 2009+ Macbooks; the older ones did it all in software.

Re:Same power source (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 9 months ago | (#45732311)

Interesting. I just had an Apple tech (that I trust, potentially trusted now) tell me that they used to be wired directly to the DC supply (didn't specify how far back) and aren't anymore. If you can get me a citation for that, I'm getting a new tech. Now I'm really interested.

Firmware security (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731753)

People sure are quick to blame apple for this. The camera is a just generic COTS module you can buy anywhere. You can literally buy them in bulk from thousands of vendors in china, some for less than a buck a piece. They're in everything from tablets to phones to laptops to TVs.

Is it really surprising someone figured out how to hack the firmware one one of them? The LED is probably just hanging off of a GPIO pin on whatever micro-controller drives the thing.

It probably would not be a bad idea to build the things to the light can't be programatically controlled independent of the camera sensor but that's probably not as easy as you'd think. These things are built to be as cheap as possible. That means the sensor, controller, and all other logic outside of power circuitry are integrated on to one silicon package. I'ts not like you could hang the LED off of the sensor's power line.

Re:Firmware security (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 9 months ago | (#45732339)

*I'ts not like you could hang the LED off of the sensor's power line.*

You could if the silicon was designed to allow it (ie: like in old webcams)

No no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731757)

My HP doesn't have a built in camera. My mics are filled with caulking. When I need either, I plug in external.

Re:No no (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about 9 months ago | (#45731993)

My HP doesn't have a built in camera. My mics are filled with caulking. When I need either, I plug in external.

But that's only the mics you know about. One of those things that looks like a capacitor on your motherboard is actually a secret NSA microphone. It's wired in with one of the inside-layer traces on the motherboard so no one has detected it yet.

Re:No no (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 9 months ago | (#45732181)

My HP doesn't have a built in camera. My mics are filled with caulking. When I need either, I plug in external.

But that's only the mics you know about. One of those things that looks like a capacitor on your motherboard is actually a secret NSA microphone. It's wired in with one of the inside-layer traces on the motherboard so no one has detected it yet.

...and then there's the ultrasonic emitter built right into the SoC with the baked-in communications and execution firmware....

Re:No no (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 9 months ago | (#45732233)

Why go with that when you can embed a cell modem into the CPU?

Re:No no (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 9 months ago | (#45732217)

That's OK. You know that filling you had replaced last year?

So you are saying (1, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#45731759)

that if you change the software that controls the light you can change the behavior! Shocking!

Re:So you are saying (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731789)

No, the significant point is that the light is controlled in software at all, independently of the camera. Do keep up.

Re:So you are saying (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 9 months ago | (#45731981)

The expected "behaviour" was that the led would shine when the camera was working i.e. hardware function not software.
Some smart code would show the malware results of allowing a camera to be on with no visual feedback.
This was unexpected as the many people seem to think a US brand would have kept the hardware to camera working light link - suggested in an early external firewire model.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/2013/12/06/352ba174-5397-11e3-9e2c-e1d01116fd98_story.html [washingtonpost.com]
"...overtly activate a computer’s camera — without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording — for several years"

That's not a bug, it's an NSA feature (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 9 months ago | (#45731827)

Remember, the family that is spied on together, stays together in Stasi Germany ... uh, Soviet Amerikkka ...

Seriously, this spying on Americans stuff is getting way out of hand.

Wot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731829)

Nude pictures? Where? Plse link.

This has been known for years (5, Informative)

koan (80826) | about 9 months ago | (#45731867)

I worked for Apple, their education department had an uproar when one school district was found to spying on the students via the iSight, the light never went on.
The school admitted they set it up that way.

They were spying on them at home, I wonder how many little kids got undressed in front of their iSights while someone watched.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robbins_v._Lower_Merion_School_District [wikipedia.org]

This is news? (3, Insightful)

BurfCurse (937117) | about 9 months ago | (#45731869)

There are a lot things you can do with "small tweaks to firmware".

Should be illegal (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731883)

Handheld digital cameras make a shutter noise, mandated by law, last I heard. In the case of webcams, the LED *should* be hardwired to the power supply for the camera. What happens when it goes on without notice and starts capturing nude photos of people, potentially minors? Yes, this IS the "think of the children" argument--but if it's going to be used, it might as well be used to the benefit of everyone (except those engaging in illegal surveillance).

Re: Should be illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731923)

there is no such law in the united states at least.

or at least not for phone cameras. if i put my iphone on mute, taking photos makes no shutter sound.

i know in japan there is a law for this. maybe other countries too.

Re:Should be illegal (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 9 months ago | (#45732171)

Handheld digital cameras make a shutter noise, mandated by law, last I heard.

If you record video, does it have to play the sound of 8mm film clacking through a noisy gate?

Re:Should be illegal (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 9 months ago | (#45732255)

I think it should have a klaxon for that. ;)

Not by accident (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731941)

The big companies do as they are told. They are either owned by extremely evil sociopaths (like Bill Gates), who believe that they are fundamentally more 'elite' than powerful politicians, bankers, generals, religious leaders, etc, or they are owned by people who know the cost of doing business at such a level means 'playing ball' with those that hold real power and influence.

In an age when Bill Gates spent TENS OF BILLIONS buying the state-of-the-art depth sensor companies that eventually gave Microsoft the ability to design and build the military grade 'time-of-flight' sensor used in the Kinect 2, all at the behest of NSA full surveillance ambitions, fiddling the software and hardware so the LED that accompanies the CCD camera is controlled in a completely independent way seems like comparing the achievement of an air-craft carrier with a pea-shooter.

However, it is all a never ending program of attacks against us, the general population. You are a serious sex criminal if you put a 'hidden' camera in the room used by your 'au pair', but when the government itself specifically distributes laptops at a high-school, so spyware can video your children in their own bedrooms, NO CRIME has been committed. They push to see how far they can go, and mainstream media outlets like Slashdot encourage you to offer no resistance, no matter how horrible their abuses become.

Normally, society works by EQUILIBRIUM. They push. We push. At some point, both forces are equal. Since the time of Tony Blair, all this has changed. Now so-called civilised nations in the West are supposed to INCREASE the amount they push each and every year, and each and every year we are supposed to walk backwards another mile. Notice the Blairite propaganda for the need for ever more laws, and the need for ever greater punishments for existing laws.

Tony Blair (the 'Putin of the UK, but far more powerful and influential than Putin) travels the world, calling for more state surveillance, more censorship, more laws, more severe punishments, far more organised religion in the lives of ordinary people, and far more military actions. Blair is 'god' for Gates, Obama, and other happy members of the actual far-Right, and the pseudo-liberal far-right.

To Team Blair, we are literal CATTLE, to be controlled, manipulated and used in whatever ways best suit the needs of those that call themselves the 'elite'. Does a farmer hesitate to practice full surveillance methods over his livestock when useful? Of course not.

The combined influence of the British and Americans over the rest of the planet is terrifying. If the British and Americans put on a united front, and say to the world "spy on your sheeple as far as your funds and technology allows, and gain and lasting better control over them in this way", not one nation will stand up and say "no, this is fundamentally evil". If, in the 19th century, Britain and the US had stood together in favour of slavery, Human slavery would be more widespread today than at any previous moment in Human History.

Blair knows how far the legacy of Britain's impact on recent Human events across these last centuries goes. He knows that as I type, all across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and East Europe, despotic regimes are saying "we can get away with this, because they do the same things today in the UK and USA".

Social engineering is now happening on a scale unthinkable even a decade back. Your children are subject to waves of abusive propaganda that would have made Winston Smith think he lived in a paradise of freedom by comparison. You are now told that it is fundamentally WRONG to allow people with non-state-approved opinions to be heard in public forums. The current front page of Digg is BOASTING how science forums on Reddit only allow Tony Blair approved opinions on matters of scientific 'fact'. And yet science, by definition, is the one area where the truth needs no sociological protection, so long as individual scientific voices are not suppressed. The scientific method requires debate, not Blair imposed 'consensus' backed by waves of State employed 'scientists' whose careers ONLY progress if they identify the propaganda needs of Tony Blair, and work in this direction.

Blair is a warmonger, and a serial liar. However, compare Blair's 'scientific' opinions with those of the owners of Slashdot, or Obama, and they coincide EXACTLY. What an amazing coincidence- not!

That LED that does not light up may seem a trivial thing in the scheme of things, but it is systematic of the scale of attack against you and yours. It is NOT that society is more accepting of voyeurism- actually since Blair rose to power, most nations have created quite draconian laws and punishments against voyeurism by citizens. So why then do corporations repeatedly get away with such depraved abuses of your privacy? Societal attitudes would suggest harsher pro-privacy rules placed on manufactures of consumer devices with inbuilt cameras.

Before Blair,. laws were lax on voyeurism, because of the principle that the State had to largely operate under the same legal rules falling on citizens. The State wanted to 'spy', so it didn't want anti-voyeurism laws getting in the way. Blair changed EVERTHING by persuading all West nations that this idea of equivalence was a NONSENSE, and the State should NOT have to operate under the same principles that governed the behaviour of the sheeple. Blair pointed out that the sheeple no longer realised that the mechanisms of the state existed to serve them, and that the average sheeple saw him/herself as the servant of the state. Then Blair pointed out that such sheeple did NOT expect their masters to live under the same rules that they did.

The "age of kings" has returned- it is just dressed differently. If you think the post-war ideals of the West still exist, you are a complete idiot. We are in the next phase, and our new journey is going to be terrifying, and the destination far worse.

Re:Not by accident (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 9 months ago | (#45732035)

TL;DR: The laws don't apply to people in power/with lots of money. The little guy is screwed and keep getting more screwed every day.

Re:Not by accident (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45732301)

extremely evil sociopaths (like Bill Gates)

Yes, one of the most altruistic motherfuckers on the planet is an "extremely evil sociopath".

Dude, get back on your meds.

This is going in the wrong direction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731983)

My previous laptop had an actual hardware killswitch that physically broke the connection between the camera and the USB bus, and a similar one for the wifi. My current one doesn't, it just has a key combination that disables the camera, presumably in software. This is stupid.

Pictures (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45732241)

there was a case in the news where a woman had nude pictures taken of her without her knowledge

Pics or it didn't happen.

According to the NSA (OS X camera security) (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45732291)

You should uninstall the camera's drivers/kernel modules.....
Same thing for USB and FireWire....

http://www.nsa.gov/ia/mitigation_guidance/security_configuration_guides/operating_systems.shtml
https://ssl.apple.com/support/security/guides/docs/SnowLeopard_Security_Config_v10.6.pdf

To remove kernel extensions for video hardware:
1 Open the /System/Library/Extensions folder.
2 To remove support for the external iSight camera, drag the following file to the Trash:
Apple_iSight.kext
3 To remove support for the built-in iSight camera, Control-click IOUSBFamily.kext and
select Show Package Contents.
4 Open the /Contents/PlugIns/ folder.
5 Drag the following file to the Trash:
AppleUSBVideoSupport.kext
6 Open Terminal and enter the following command:
$ sudo touch /System/Library/Extensions
The touch command changes the modified date of the /System/Library/Extensions
folder. When the folder has a new modified date, the Extension cache files
(located in /System/Library/) are deleted and rebuilt by Snow Leopard.
7 Choose Finder > Secure Empty Trash to delete the file
8 Reboot

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