Cover your webcams, says FBI chief

© csis.org
Taping over or otherwise covering up your computer’s web camera is a “sensible” thing that everyone should do, according to FBI Director James Comey. US spy agencies have had the ability to hack into webcams for years, according to whistleblowers.

Giving a keynote address at a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the National Security Division at the US Department of Justice, Comey sat down with Assistant Attorney General John Carlin and discussed things such as webcam security and Twitter. The event was hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington, DC think tank.

“Do you still have a piece of tape over your cameras at home?” Carlin asked.

“Heck yeah, oh, heck yeah,” Comey replied.

“It's not crazy that the FBI director cares about personal security as well, and so I think people ought to take responsibility for their own safety and security,” Comey continued. “There are some sensible things you ought to be doing, and that’s one of them.”

The practice is apparently widespread at US government offices, according to the FBI chief.

“You go into any government office and we all have the little camera things that sit on top of the screen. They all have a little lid that closes down on them. You do that so that people who don’t have authority don’t look at you. I think that’s a good thing,” Comey explained.

While the FBI director admitted he was “mocked” after bringing up the tape trick in April this year – in part because he was involved in a heated dispute with Apple over access to the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone at the time – it appears many have taken his advice to heart. A photo of Facebook tycoon Mark Zuckerberg earlier this year showed his office laptop with a piece of tape covering the webcam.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 that the government had tools to access not just computer webcams, but also the cameras in iPhones and BlackBerries.