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04.08.2020by
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If you don't want to tape over your Mac's FaceTime camera, free and paid software can alert you when the camera and microphone are activated. You’re being watched through your hacked.

Virtually every computer sold today comes with a dirty little secret. It can spy on you. Learn more, and how to protect yourself.

  • Mar 01, 2018  If you’re using an external webcam – that is, one that plugs into your computer’s USB port – only connect it when you need it. Yes, it can be a pain to remember to plug it in whenever you.
  • Use the built-in camera on Mac. Many Mac computers and displays have a built-in iSight, FaceTime, or FaceTime HD camera located near the top edge of the screen. The camera automatically turns on when you open an app that can take pictures, record videos, or make video calls. You can decide which apps are allowed to use the camera on your Mac.
  • Apr 06, 2020  To put it simply, there’s a possibility your iPhone MacBook Webcam and Microphone can be hacked. This important security threat was reported by Ryan Pickren, an ethical hacker, who demonstrated a set of total 7 vulnerabilities to Apple. This helped them jump into quick and much needed action, and in return they rewarded Pickren with $75,000.
  • Jul 18, 2020  Read the original article: Top Stories: Apple Warns About MacBook Webcam Covers, iOS 13.6 Released, Apple Hacked on TwitterWhile much of our attention has been focused on iOS 14 over the past weeks, Apple was finishing up some final updates for the iOS 13 series of releases, and this week delivered iOS 13.6 and associated updates for other platforms to the public.

Virtually every computer sold today comes with a dirty little secret.

It can spy on you.

What’s more, if hackers can infect your computer with malware they can hijack your webcam and secretly watch you too – regardless of whether they’re based down the street or on the other side of the world.

In some cases, if they’re really crafty, hackers can even spy on you without the LED on your webcam lighting up.

Hacked

Notable victims of webcam hacking include Cassidy Wolf, an American model who was crowned Miss Teen USA in 2013. In her case, Wolf was spied upon by one of her former classmates – Jared James Abrahams – who had installed the Blackshades RAT malware on her laptop in order to covertly take naked photographs of the beauty queen.

Abrahams sent Wolf an anonymous email, threatening to post the intimate photographs of her on social media websites, unless she agreed to send additional photos to him or (eww…) strip for him during a Skype video chat.

Here’s a video of Cassidy Wolf being interviewed about the hack on CNN last year:

Wolf did the right thing. She didn’t give in to the extortionist’s demands, she told her parents what was happening, and contacted the police so they could investigate.

Fortunately, Abrahams was caught, and received an 18 month prison sentence for his crimes against Wolf and other victims.

But it’s not an isolated problem. In May last year, the European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit, announced it had arrested almost 100 people worldwide, in an operation targeting the developers and users of Blackshades, a kit of malware tools sold online for just $40.

Amongst those arrested was Swedish hacker Alex Yücel, the co-creator of the Blackshades Remote Access Tool (RAT), which provides an easy way for perverts to remotely commandeer the webcams of unsuspecting parties and snoop upon their activities.

Yücel was clearly doing quite nicely by selling software that helped hack people’s webcams and access their computer files, being able to hire several paid administrators, including a director of marketing, customer service staff, and a director of marketing.

Between September 2010 and April 2014, Blackshades had generated sales of more than $350,000.

You can do your maths yourself to determine just how many people must have been buying the malicious software, and had within their power the ability to hack into stranger’s computers and spy upon them.

Yücel pleaded guilty earlier this year to distributing malware,

Although arrests have been made in relation to the Blackshades RAT malware, there are plenty of other tools and trojan horses in existence which can help strangers snoop upon you.

So what can you do to prevent webcam hackers?

Well, you could follow the example of delegates at the recent Infiltrate conference held at a swanky hotel in the city of Miami Beach.

According to press reports, the Fountainebleau hotel offers guests the use of an Apple Mac computer in every room.

So what do Infiltrate’s security-conscious delegates do when they get into their room and see the Mac (including built-in webcam)?

Why, they turn it around, unplug it, and put a towel over the monitor for good luck!

That approach may be a little extreme for some of us on our own computers, but when you use a PC or Mac in an environment where it is likely to have been used by strangers, you should certainly be aware that you cannot have much confidence regarding whether the device has already been compromised by malware.

When it comes to your personal computer – be it Mac or PC – make sure that you are always running the latest anti-virus and other security software, have kept your software patches updated, and be alert about opening unsolicited email attachments and clicking on potentially dangerous links.

Also, if you have internet-accessible cameras elsewhere in your house – such as baby monitors or CCTV – be aware that many such devices are sold with default or weak passwords that are child’s play for hackers to crack. Make sure to configure with unique, hard-to-guess passwords just as you would for, say, your bank account.

In addition, it should go without saying that you should also update your webcam’s firmware regularly to protect against newly discovered security holes and vulnerabilities.

Furthermore, although it can be circumvented in some cases, keep a keen eye out for the webcam’s LED lighting up unexpectedly as it may imply unauthorised access by an application – perhaps being controlled remotely by a hacker or peeping tom.

Wifi Here are some of the steps you can easily follow to hack a password on different phones.

Finally – cover it and unplug it. If you can, disconnect the webcam if you only use it infrequently but at the very least put a Post-It note over the lens so you can choose when you want to be “on camera” and when not.

Discussion

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Do you think that your Mac was hacked? Do you feel that someone or something is spying on you when you are watching YouTube, or when your Mac is left unattended at home?

There are many ways how a human or a program can get on your computer and do harm to you and your privacy:

  • It could be a spyware, a malicious hacker, or someone you know, such as a parent, a spouse, a friend.
  • They can access your photos, videos, and emails
  • They can take embarrassing pictures of you using a webcam
  • They can listen and record your conversations
  • They can monitor your browsing history
  • They can use your computer to mine Bitcoins
  • They can encrypt everything on your disk and then ask for a ransom

Computers have never been safe, and now when we rely so much on them, it is extremely important to protect ourselves from malicious actors.

This topic is too broad to fit into one blog post, so I am writing mini-series, which will help you to minimize the impact and secure your Mac.

Signs That Your Mac Was hacked

If you are reading this post, chances are you noticed something unusual is happening on your Mac. Sometimes you have a hunch, but you can’t explain it. However, most of those signs can be explained by reasons other than malware or hackers. So, let’s review the major signs.

Mac suddenly became slow for no apparent reasons

I’ve been developing commercial software for more than twenty years. There were many times when I received a call from the customer complaining that their computers, servers, programs are slow.

Every time I am getting a call, the first thing I ask if they did something before they noticed the problem. Do you know how many times they admitted that they changed something? You guessed it, zero. How many times did customers cause the problem? Almost always.

Following are some of the reasons why Mac can be slow:

  • There is a virus or other malware
  • Not enough disk space on Mac
  • New OS was installed
  • Hardware failure

Mac is using more Internet than usual

This one is harder to detect now than before. We used to have limits on how much Internet bandwidth we could use. Today, when many people have unlimited data with cable, you may not even know that something is happening.

However, if you are on a limited plan, and you see a significant increase in data consumption (more than 25% more), it’s time to investigate.

The reasons could be the following:

  • Your Mac is being used as a bot by hackers
  • There is a virus or other malware
  • Your little one grew up and now watching YouTube all day on your computer
  • New OS was installed
  • Youtube and other web sites are taking forever to load

Similar to the previous sign, problems with the Internet could be a sign pointing to a virus or adware affecting the browser. Or it could be a new browser update. Or maybe the system became unstable.

Programs crashing more often

Did you notice that apps getting stuck and eventually crashing? Very often, it’s a sign of malware. Additional reasons for frequent app crashes are the following:

  • Lack of memory (RAM)
  • Lack of disk space
  • Temporary system instability
  • Hardware failure
  • Unusual pop-ups in the browser

This is something we all have seen. You download an app from the Internet and seems like it was a legit software. But little did you know a good app was bundled with bloatware.

Usually, the result is that your default search engine gets changed from Google to Yahoo, the home page changes, and there are additional icons in the browser toolbar. But there could be other issues such as adware.

Adware is trying to redirect you to other sites, not related to what are you searching for. Their goal is direct traffic to certain sites. More traffic, more money they get. So, they litter your screen with pop-up, hoping that you can click and open the site you don’t want.

New files appear or old files disappear

Malware often creates new files with cryptic names. For instance, ransomware encrypts the files on your disk and renames them. However, there could be more innocent explanations.

For instance, if you can’t find a file, it does not necessarily mean that it was deleted by malware or someone who logged in on your computer remotely. Maybe, you just can’t remember that you deleted the file or the folder. In this case, first, check Trash on Mac.

If you still can’t find what you need, check my post about finding any files. I guarantee, if the file is still on your Mac after reading my post, you will be able to locate it.

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How To Tell If Mac Was Hacked

First, scan your Mac with an antimalware solution. Next, turn off remote desktop and screen sharing features to make sure that nobody can connect to your Mac remotely. Verify that there are no keyloggers. Finally, eliminate reasons unrelated to hacking: reboot Mac, perform NVRAM/PRAM reset, check if there is enough space on the startup disk. If possible, visit the Apple Genius Bar for advice.

Now, let’s go over all the above in detail.

Scan Mac for viruses

I recently called Apple Support and complained about the slowness of my MacBook Pro. I could’ve solved the problem myself, but I just wanted how much would it cost for Apple to perform diagnostics on a 5-year old MacBook.

Since I don’t have AppleCare for my Mac, I thought that they would charge me something. Spoiler alert: I wasn’t charged for anything.

So, when I called, the first thing the Apple advisor made me do is to install the Malwarebytes app.

While Malwarebytes is a solid recommendation for scanning, it is not the best. In fact, I stopped recommending it to any Mac user after the test I performed myself recently.

I tested a dozen of antimalware product and only one detected 100% of 117 malware samples I intentionally downloaded on my MacBook. So, if you need a recommendation on a good antivirus check it here.

Tighten up access to your Mac

Programs are not the only threat out there. People sometimes can be even more harmful. There are several ways for someone to spy after you.

One is via remote desktop. Maybe you had experience connecting to servers or other Windows machines at work by remote desktop connection. Macs, even MacBooks, also allow such connections.

Also, it is possible to share the screen of your laptop. While it’s a useful feature, if you mean it, it’s not so good if someone’s using it when you are not aware.

And finally, since macOS has UNIX roots, as any UNIX like the operating system, it can be controlled via SSH protocol. Anyone with access can do pretty much anything on your Mac, and you wouldn’t even know.

If all of the above sounds complicated, don’t worry. I wrote a very detailed post on a topic of remote access to your Mac (https://macmyths.com/how-to-tell-if-someone-is-remotely-accessing-your-mac/). All you need is to go over the post and follow the simple steps outlined there.

Mac keyloggers

For a long time, I thought that all keyloggers could do to record keyboard strokes. Imagine my shock when I started working on my post about keyloggers.

Did you know that a new generation of keyloggers can do screenshots every 5 seconds, or record your messages and social media chats? And they can upload the collected information to the cloud.

And the worst part they are freely available for anyone to purchase!

To find out how one can identify a keylogger on Mac I installed 5 most popular apps on my laptop. They completely trashed my system, but luckily I had backups, so I was able to recover my MacBook.

Things to try if no virus found

While you are maybe suspecting something bad happening on your computer, it very well may be a normal condition.

Things to try before starting panicking:

Reboot

Sometimes glitches in software can make the current state of your system unstable. A reboot is still a remedy for many problems. You can either restart or shutdown and start again. The effect will be the same.

NVRAM/PRAM reset

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Macs historically have a little memory cell where they store some information needed for many Mac peripherals to work. Surprisingly, this area gets corrupt pretty often. Fortunately, there is a very simple fix – reset NVRAM/PRAM and SMC.

Apple has very good instructions on how to perform these tasks.

What they don’t tell is that you have to reset at 2-3 times in a row for a fix to work. I found out this in the school of hard knocks so that you don’t need to.

Clear some space on disk

Lack of space on your startup disk may cause all kinds of issues: app slowdown, app crashes, high CPU usage, and MacBook overheating. Sometimes this may lead you to suspect that your Mac was hacked.

So, first, check how much storage you have left. And if it is not enough, you can either spend money on getting software that helps to clean your disk or read my article on free cleaning tips: How Do I Free Up Disk Space On My Mac Without Software.

New operating system

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Apple releases a new version of macOS every year. While they do everything they can to produce quality software, bugs still happen.

For instance, after the recent iOS update on my iPhone, my podcast app starts freezing every time I pause. I still didn’t find why it is happening because I am too lazy busy.

In the case of the issue on hand, if you had a recent OS update, take time to investigate if the issues you are noticing are common for the release.

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Check for hardware failure

Macs are very dependable, and they can serve for many years. However, any hardware gradually fails. For example, a failing disk causes unexplained app crashes. Failed RAM will prevent the computer from starting.

There is a good article on the Apple web site about running hardware diagnostics. Try and see what it will report.

Visit Apple Genius Bar

If you have an Apple store nearby, definitely check them out. On several occasions, I had to contact them, they helped me for free. If there is a fee for diagnostics, they should tell you upfront, so you can decide if it’s worth it for you or not.

5 Things To Do If Your Mac Was Hacked

So, you did everything I told you, and you found out that either someone spying or if there was malware on your Mac. There are several things you have to do immediately.

Change passwords

I know it could be painful to change all passwords. I have accounts on hundreds of web sites, and there is no way I could remember all of them. Well, this is not what I am suggesting.

You have to change passwords on the most important sites:

  • Your primary email account. The one that is linked to your bank accounts.
  • Bank and credit card accounts
  • Work email password
  • Apple ID and iCloud passwords (note, they are not the same)

If you are using one password for all sites, consider using 1Password utility.

Check bank statements

It never hurts to go over your bank statements (if you have any) once a while. If you notice some suspicious activity, then do a little research. But don’t panic right away if you don’t recognize a charge.

Almost every once, when I check my credit card statements, I see one or more charges which I don’t remember doing. However, after 5 minutes or so, I remember what it was.

Check credit report

Everyone in the U.S. has a right to get a free credit report once a year. Since there are three main agencies, you can get a free report three times a year (one from each agency). Search for “Annual Credit Report” in Google, but be careful to skip some ads and use the legit site.

Turn on Two-Factor Authentication

If you didn’t do this yet, turn on two-factor authentication on main sites: email, any money sites, etc. It’s a little bit inconvenient, but it’s the best way to prevent hackers from stealing your data.

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What’s Next?

I hope I gave you some high-level information you needed in case if you think that your computer was hacked. Now, I suggest to check the articles I mentioned above in the following order, so you know how to deal with the problems outlined:

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