Sunday, August 18, 2013 - 19:21

Webcams, your privacy and unwanted celebrity

As CNN and others reported yesterday Miss Cassidy Wolf, apparently Miss Teen America, became a victim of webcam extortion.

As it seems some nice fella re-purposed her computer to capture private photos via her webcam in her bedroom. Since the FBI is investigating the case - and probably for other reasons as well - the details are scarce. Apparently the intruder was/is blackmailing her to put said captures on the net...unless.  Whatever unless is.

Webcams are a generic problem. They are nice to have. But really only when you need them. Many - actually most - new devices come with integrated cams. Phones, tablets, monitors, laptops. You can turn them off but you cannot unplug them anymore. That's a major problem as someone who captured the computer can usually turn them on again and not every camera is hardwired to sport a light when they are active. In many models that's software as well.

There's no problem with having one. As said. They come in handy. Having a fixed cam in your bedroom or your only room is particularly a bad idea for rather obvious reasons. Everyone can become a target for pretty much the same number of reasons. Of course being a pretty woman and being known makes it more likely. Extortion as in this case doesn't have to be the reason and Miss Wolf became a victim before she won a title. So the case probably has little to do with her being somewhat famous. It can be sport or a practical joke gone wrong. And usually you're the last person to find out about your images floating on the web. Not that you can do much about it anyway.

Having a separate cam has a couple of advantages. You can buy a decent one so you're not limited to the built-in crap. And more importantly...you can unplug it if you don't need it. Won't save you from hacked computers but there's no way to exploit it to turn it into a cctv camera spying on you. Being a penny-pincher may not pay off unless the goal is unwanted celebrity.

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