Does covering his laptop camera
and microphone with tape make Facebook�s boss paranoid, or are they really
after him? Probably a bit of both
Mark Zuckerberg celebrates 500
million monthly active users on Instagram � but he also revealed a lot about
himself by leaving his laptop in the background
Don�t worry, Mark Zuckerberg:
Just because you�re paranoid doesn�t mean they aren�t after you. And as the
richest millennial in the world, you can probably be confident that someone,
somewhere, is after you.
Which is why it makes perfect sense that you�ve joined the growing number of
people doing a little DIY hardware hacking, and disabling their computer�s
webcam and microphone. Even if a sneaky hacker does manage to penetrate your
security, they�re not going to be seeing you in your tighty whities.
Yes folks, Zuckerberg tapes over his webcam. The billionaire made the
(accidental?) revelation in a Facebook post intended to promote Instagram
reaching its latest milestone of half a billion monthly active users.
In the picture Zuckerberg posted, of himself framed by a cardboard Instagram
UI (cute), his laptop is visible in the background. And as Christopher Olson
pointed out, that laptop has some weird accoutrements:
3 things about this photo of
O(And yes, that really does seem
to be his laptop. Gizmodo�s William Turton notes that it�s the same desk the
Face-boss gave a tour of on Facebook Live back in September.)
Thunderbird is an email client, for what it�s worth, which is made by
Firefox creators Mozilla. Unlike Firefox, though, it�s never really taken
off in the wider world, and development has rather stalled in the past five
years. It may not even be Thunderbird that Zuckerberg has installed � others
think it�s a Cisco VPN client.
Taping over the sensors and a particularly geeky mail client might seem
paranoid. But to be fair to Zuckerberg, he�s not the only one taking a look
at his webcam and wondering if it�s worth the risk.
Take the FBI�s director, James Comey: �I put a piece of tape over the camera
because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their
camera.� The American digital rights group EFF sells webcam stickers, and
told the Guardian�s Danny Yadron �people purchase these regularly�.
Even experts who don�t cover their cameras think they should. Why doesn�t
Matthew Green, an encryption expert at Johns Hopkins University? �Because
I�m an idiot,� he told Yadron.
�I have no excuse for not taking this seriously � but at the end of the day,
I figure that seeing me naked would be punishment enough.�
While Zuckerberg probably does have any number of advanced persistent
threats trying to break his digital security, normal people shouldn�t be too
complacent either. Installing backdoors on compromised computers is a common
way for some hackers to occupy their time.
According to a 2013 report in
tech news site Ars Technica, sites such as Hack Forums contain threads full
of people comparing and trading images of �slaves�, people whose computers
they have broken into and taken control of. �One woman targeted by the
California �sextortionist� Luis Mijangos wouldn�t leave her dorm room for a
week after Mijangos turned her laptop into a sophisticated bugging device,�
Ars� Nate Anderson wrote. �Mijangos began taunting her with information
gleaned from offline conversations.�
Mac users, like Zuckerberg, can rest a bit easier: unlike most Windows
laptops, the light next to a Mac�s webcam is controlled deeply in the
hardware, and so it�s very hard to turn the webcam on without also turning
on the warning light. Hard, but not impossible.
So should you copy Zuckerberg? Probably. It doesn�t hurt, most of the
experts do it, and it could minimise damage � even if it�s just emotional �
in the case of a catastrophic hack. But maybe don�t use Thunderbird. Some
things are just too much hassle.
This article originally
published in: The Guardian