Can Someone Access Your Phone Camera Without You Knowing?
Having a camera handy at all times on your phone is a real perk. From quickly snapping the kids eating ice-creams, to capturing impromptu selfies with friends, they’ve become a way of recording our day-to-day lives.
But here’s an unnerving thought – it might not just be you that’s peering through your camera. Worried? You might have reason to be, but there are ways you can protect yourself. Here’s more information.
Phone camera hacking – the facts
In 2017, Felix Krause (founder of Fastlane.tools) revealed that, when you give an app permission to access your camera, it is then able to do the following:
- Obtain access to both the front and back camera
- Record you at any time (when the app is active on your phone)
- Take photos and videos without asking for your permission first
- Detect if you’re using your phone alone or if you’re with someone else
- Upload photos and videos without you knowing
- Upload those photos and videos immediately
- Livestream the camera to the internet
- Run face-recognition to detect facial features or expressions
It can even upload face recognition software on frames of your video content, then locate photos of you on the internet and build a 3D model based on your facial features. Now that’s a frightening thought.
What’s the big deal?
You might think that this is unlikely to affect you. After all, what apps request access to your camera? Well, as it happens, quite a few. Social media apps, for example, such as Instagram and Facebook, require access to your camera in order to function.
To prove the point, a documentary maker installed the Find My Phone app on his phone, then let someone steal it. He was then able to spy on the thief via the camera of the phone. You can watch his film here.
It’s important to remember that it’s unlikely to happen; but you could be one of the unlucky ones. The big question is – who’s doing the watching?
Hackers are the most obvious perpetrators. A knowledgeable hacker finds it easy to gain access to a phone camera; via apps, multimedia messages and even emojis. PDF files are also popular – once the user opens the malicious file, the hacker has total control over their phone.
They can then use this to install software or apps, find out your passwords, steal your photos and take new images and videos.
And yes, those conspiracy theories are true – the government can also access your phone. Via in-built backdoors, they can browse through your photo albums, watch your videos and take pictures of you.
It’s not always easy to tell if someone has hacked into your phone camera. However, there are a few warning signs that you should be aware of:
- Background noise. If you hear strange noises while you’re talking on the phone with someone, this might be a sign that someone has hacked into your conversation, or that a system glitch has occurred, enabling someone to access your phone.
- Your battery is running down more quickly. This could just be a sign that your phone is getting old. If the battery life has suddenly deteriorated though, it could indicate something more sinister – like malware running in the background, draining your battery power.
- You’re receiving some strange software updates. If you keep getting a lot of odd software update pop-ups, this suggests that a third-party might be attempting to install some malicious software on your phone. If in doubt, don’t click on it!
What’s a phone owner to do?
Don’t panic. There are steps you can take to protect your phone from malicious camera access. Here are a few ideas:
- Cover the camera. It’s an obvious solution, but highly effective. Get a piece of tape, then secure it over the cameras at the front and back. Voila – no more access! However, this isn’t practical if you want to use your camera feature; in which case, an Anti-Hack cover might be more useful. It fixes to your phone and can be easily opened up when you want to take a photo.
- Take care when opening files. If a file appears in your WhatsApp feed that you weren’t expecting, don’t open it. Likewise, if you receive a message on a social media app from someone you don’t know, don’t click on any links.
- Review your existing apps. It’s worth taking some time to browse through your apps and establish what level of access they have to your phone. This is relatively easy under your phone’s settings; for example, on an iPhone, you should be able to find out whether the app has camera access or not under Settings > Privacy.
- Get insured. Look for an insurance plan that covers you for unauthorised use and theft – it’s useful