Mac iSight Camera Security

When I was doing Mac tech support at a large company, one of our customers (a very nice man) would put a piece of tape over his Mac iSight camera. My Mac tech partner and I thought that was pretty funny. However, the joke may be on us!

Camera Hackers

In the old days, I don’t think people could hack the camera on a Mac. However, hackers have gotten more sophisticated, and it looks like it may be possible:

Malicious websites and apps can gain access to your webcam and microphone. A lot of people might consider this to be an urban legend but there is truth to it. Unfortunately, a website or an app that does this isn’t going to be easy to detect by the average user. Tech savvy users might be able to tell if their webcam or mic is being accessed but for the ordinary user . . . you likely have to tape a bit of paper over your webcam to be safe.
– via AddictiveTips

Yes, I know. It sounds a bit paranoid. I think it may be possible these days. So, what do we do? Is a piece of tape over the camera the answer? Do you go to Amazon and buy a Webcam Cover? I guess you can do this, but there is an easier, less obtrusive way.

Oversight

Oversight by Objective-See is a Free security app that monitors access to any webcams and microphones on your system. That includes the built-in Mac microphone and iSight camera. Here is a blurb from Oversight’s web page:

One of the most insidious actions of malware, is abusing the audio and video capabilities of an infected host to record an unknowing user. Macs, of course, are not immune; malware such as OSX/Eleanor, OSX/Crisis, OSX/Mokes, and others, all attempt to spy on OS X users. OverSight constantly monitors a system, alerting a user whenever the internal microphone is activated, or the built-in webcam is accessed. 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, Sykpe, Google Hangouts, etc.) and record both audio and video – without fear of detection.
– via objective-see.com

Sounds pretty scary, but don’t worry. Oversight is coming to the rescue!

When you install Oversight you get this window:

OversightInstall

When it is finished installing it points you to the umbrella symbol in the Status Bar or what some people call the Menu Bar:

OversightInstalled

When you click on the umbrella in the Menu Bar you get this dropdown menu:

OversightMenu

It is pretty self-explanatory. It shows you what items it is monitoring. If you click on Preferences, you can tweak a couple of things:

OversightPreferences

You can click on “Start,” but when I did that Oversight said it was already started. The app automatically starts up at login.

I don’t get many FaceTime calls. So, I did a test using my wife’s iPhone. When the FaceTime call came through Oversight presented this window:

OversightWindow

When anything accesses your camera or mic, you get this type of alert. It let’s you allow the good guys and block the bad guys. Yes, it is just one more thing to click. However, I think it is worth it for the added little bit of security.

Oversight is a very simple app that seems to work well. It is not on the App Store. You have to download it from their website.

Conclusion

If you are concerned about people hacking into your Mac camera or microphone, I recommend getting Oversight. The price is right, and it seems to work quite well. What have you got to lose?