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While the research focused on Mac Book and i Mac models released before 2008, the authors say similar techniques could work on more recent computers from a wide variety of vendors.In other words, if a laptop has a built-in camera, it’s possible someone — whether the federal government or a malicious 19 year old — could access it to spy on the user at any time.Their research is under consideration for an upcoming academic security conference.The researchers also provided us with a copy of their proof-of-concept software.“There’s no reason you can’t do it -- it’s just a lot of work and resources but it depends on how well [Apple] secured the hardware,” Miller says. Brocker and Checkoway write in their report that they contacted the company on July 16.“Apple employees followed up several times but did not inform us of any possible mitigation plans,” the researchers write.As a result, she had no idea she was under surveillance. While controlling a camera remotely has long been a source of concern to privacy advocates, conventional wisdom said there was at least no way to deactivate the warning light. Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, said in a recent story in The Washington Post that the FBI has been able to covertly activate a computer’s camera — without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording — for several years.Now research from Johns Hopkins University provides the first public confirmation that it’s possible to do just that, and demonstrates how.
The photos had been taken over a period of several months — without her knowledge — by the built-in camera on her laptop.“People are starting to think about what happens when you can reprogram each of those,” Miller says.For example, he demonstrated an attack last year on the software that controls Apple batteries, which causes the battery to discharge rapidly, potentially leading to a fire or explosion.One laptop, many chips The built-in cameras on Apple computers were designed to prevent this, says Stephen Checkoway, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins and a co-author of the study.“Apple went to some amount of effort to make sure that the LED would turn on whenever the camera was taking images,” Checkoway says.