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How Do You Know When Someone Accesses Your Webcam? This Free App Will Tell You

Published On 10/06/2016 Published On 10/06/2016
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You've been warned. Cover that webcam with a piece of tape. Mark Zuckerberg does it. FBI Director James Comey recommends you do it. But just putting a piece of tape over your webcam doesn't prevent a hacker from accessing your webcam or microphone. 

However, a new app can help and it's free. Former National Security Agency staffer Patrick Wardle debuted OverSight on Thursday. It's a free tool for Macs that notifies you anytime someone has accessed the webcam or microphone on your computer. Not only is it a useful tool, your handy old piece of tape isn't able to do much to protect your microphone.

"OverSight constantly monitors a system, alerting a user whenever the internal microphone is activated, or the built-in webcam is accessed," the OverSight site reads. "And yes, while the webcam's LED will turn on whenever a session is initially started, new research has shown that malware can surreptitious piggyback into such existing sessions (FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.) and record both audio and video - without fear of detection."

Users get an on-screen notification anytime the camera or microphone is activated. That includes uses that are initiated by the user. So, an alert will pop up even when you're trying to FaceTime your mom. 

The site promises updates and improved features in future versions but doesn't promise that it's foolproof. "As with any security tool, direct or proactive attempts to specifically bypass OverSight's protections will likely succeed," the site says.

Still, it sounds like a better plan than a piece of tape. Plus, the site doesn't say it specifically but it sounds like it's compatible with your fancy "piece of tape" solution. You can run them at the same time.

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Dustin Nelson is a News Writer with Thrillist. He holds a Guinness World Record, but has never met the fingernail lady. He’s written for Sports Illustrated, Men’s Journal, The Rumpus, and other digital wonderlands. Follow him @dlukenelson.

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