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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.

In a paper called “i See You: Disabling the Mac Book Webcam Indicator LED,” Brocker and Checkoway describe how to reprogram the i Sight camera’s micro-controller to allow the camera and light to be activated independently.But Wolf says she never saw the light on her laptop go on.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.“Apple went to some amount of effort to make sure that the LED would turn on whenever the camera was taking images,” Checkoway says.The 2008-era Apple products they studied had a “hardware interlock” between the camera and the light to ensure that the camera couldn’t turn on without alerting its owner.

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