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Webcam
November 28, 2011 8:19 PM   Subscribe

Webcam is a short film which explores the concept (and apparent reality) of "webcam hacking." Straight link Vimeo. Warning: Vimeo comments contain spoilers.
posted by kkrvgz (37 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't think that personal security and computer privacy can get enough press, but I wonder if this video sensationalizes the issue a bit much.

That being said - this was incredibly well done.
posted by rebent at 8:48 PM on November 28, 2011


The film was genuinely original and frightening without the normal cast of cliches, until the end.
posted by stbalbach at 8:51 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


And all of those people using their Facebook accounts with their real names in the comments...

Jesus fucking Christ I weep for humanity.
posted by Talez at 8:51 PM on November 28, 2011


That was sensationalist garbage.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 9:01 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Luckily for many of us, morbid obesity is the best possible deterrent to webcam hacking.
posted by R. Schlock at 9:03 PM on November 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


I got to the underpants dance and I'm out. No idea what is meant to be happening. Can someone summarize the imaginary problem this video is trying to milk views from?
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:15 PM on November 28, 2011


Can someone summarize the imaginary problem this video is trying to milk views from?

The stalker...he's coming from...INSIDE THE WEBCAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by to sir with millipedes at 9:16 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


So that would be Mark Miller then? I see he had to get passwords from them first. Otherwise he'd just be looking at school grounds and bar forecourts.
Still, I hope this short gets around a bit and helps Jasmine Anne Osborne over her Mid-Quarter Life Crisis.
posted by unliteral at 9:30 PM on November 28, 2011


Yeah, those webcam lights can't be turned off by software. And exactly how many incredibly improbable places does she stick her improbably always-on laptop in, exactly?
posted by Yowser at 9:33 PM on November 28, 2011


It's based on actual events, presumably including documented underpants - dancing.
posted by longsleeves at 9:47 PM on November 28, 2011


I'm surprised by the people who say that this is sensationalizing... it actually seemed kind of understated to me, I would've taken more artistic license with the story just to make it more entertaining. The "this is a troo story" bits at the end should have mentioned the Lower Merion School District thing.
posted by XMLicious at 9:58 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I call bullshit.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 9:59 PM on November 28, 2011


Please put your pants back on, Mr. Farrow.
posted by roue at 10:05 PM on November 28, 2011


Paranormal Activity
posted by nicwolff at 10:07 PM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, those webcam lights can't be turned off by software.

If I remember the dialog right, she said the light "used to go on and off for no reason," and it sounds like she'd already taken it to this computer repair place before, and that now her light wasn't coming on at all -- so I thought we were meant to infer that her stalker works at the repair place, and physically disabled the light when she brought it in.

Sensationalism aside, I thought this was a fun and creepy little piece.
posted by webmutant at 10:28 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe the idea was that it was someone at the repair place that did it.

I don't think this is sensationalist at all, though. Not sure how prevalent webcam hacking is this days, but there is software out there, and there are plenty of cases of internet stalking to warrant people finding, or worse, paying to exploit.

And exactly how many incredibly improbable places does she stick her improbably always-on laptop in, exactly?

My MacBook was my life for two years straight and I only closed it when I had to. The eeriness of this video directly relates to how often that was totally me.
posted by june made him a gemini at 10:37 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yowser's right, it's impossible to disable the MacBook iSight LED in software (also true for Windows laptops, it's a security feature for just this purpose), so any even mildly observant user should know when their camera is on. And without some other vulnerable system failure like an exposed keypad lock password or skill with lockpicks, there's no amount of hacking that could let the hacker into the apartment.

That said, webcam hacking is a real threat. There's several steps you can take to disable the camera. First you can download & use iSight Disabler, which should run under Leopard & up. A skilled hacker could run the same script & reenable the camera; to foil that you can actually delete the drivers (link also has software for remotely taking pictures from command line using ssh). A very skilled or motivated hacker could import his own drivers & install them on your system; the only way to defeat that is to physically block the camera with e.g. tape.
posted by scalefree at 10:45 PM on November 28, 2011


I just realized though, it's entirely possible to record audio without someone knowing...
posted by Yowser at 11:02 PM on November 28, 2011


I just realized though, it's entirely possible to record audio without someone knowing...
posted by Yowser


Eponysclaimation?
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:07 PM on November 28, 2011


I call bullshit. I never once saw her picking her nose, or eating cold ravioli out of a can, or scratching her butt, or wearing Queen Helene's Mint Julep Mask. She didn't swear at all while doing her "homework, " not even one of the Lesser Swears.


Not that you would see any of those things if you hacked my webcam. Which, you really don't want to do.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:10 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


They must have been spying on her because they suspected she was a robot.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:14 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sounds creepy and plausible (it actually happened, after all), but one's chances of experiencing a hacked web cam are far, far less than metaphorically being in a metaphorical car accident. Or having your wallet stolen. Or having your credit card information taken from your mailbox. Or being bitten by a rabid fox while strolling through the woods of upstate New York.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:16 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing is, a hacker could write viruses that would go off like little sorcerer's apprentices to find devices like webcams and use them to spy whereas a mugger has to approach you in person to steal your wallet. (Unless the mugger builds butt-scratching, cold-ravioli-from-a-can-eating robots like louche mustachio to do the wallet stealing.) If hackers accessing webcams is a rare occurrence now it's much more scalable than any of those other rare events.
posted by XMLicious at 11:59 PM on November 28, 2011


> steps you can take to disable the camera

Duct tape.
posted by hank at 12:44 AM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm feeling paranoid that someone has cracked my phone. Does anyone know any tools for checking an iPhone for various exploits.
posted by humanfont at 5:10 AM on November 29, 2011


I'm feeling paranoid that someone has cracked my phone. Does anyone know any tools for checking an iPhone for various exploits.

Serious answer: Reset your phone to factory settings. Move on.
posted by odinsdream at 5:55 AM on November 29, 2011


Yeah, I keep a little tab of electrical tape over my webcam on my MBP. I know it's a completely irrational fear, and people make fun of me for it. This makes me feel justified.
posted by slogger at 7:05 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Serious answer: Reset your phone to factory settings. Move on.

I did that. I havn't jailbroken, or done any other items. I was hopping that someone had written a tool to check at the os level. I'll have to keep looking.
posted by humanfont at 8:32 AM on November 29, 2011


@slogger,Yeah, people ask me about the black photographic tape over my webcam, and the next time I see them, they have a little square of tape too. One guy put clear scotch tape over the camera, and colored it with a sharpie. If I were serious about foiling the Chinese hackers, I'd also insert an audio-in plug with no mic into the external mic jack to disable the built in one, although I'm not even sure that would disable it in hardware.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 8:48 AM on November 29, 2011


> steps you can take to disable the camera

Duct tape.


I think it's best to use a piece of Post-it note since it's designed to be re-adherable without leaving any glue behind.
posted by bobo123 at 9:33 AM on November 29, 2011


My Palestinian co-worker keeps tape over the front of her webcam.
I told her she was being paranoid.
She told me that I didn't grow up in Iran.
posted by JimmyJames at 9:35 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Back Orifice still works?
posted by cmoj at 10:05 AM on November 29, 2011


Americans and Brits are so paranoid about nudity issues. I trust anyone here covering their webcam also opts out of the TSA's full body scanners, yes? You should obviously opt-out based concerns about upon radiation or graft, but if nudity gets the job done, fine.

There are imho more good than bad uses for webcam spying software, like stolen computer recovery, home security, etc. In particular, there are command line programs like isightcapture and screencapture that let you investigate your computer once you gain shell access remotely.

I'll post instructions for creating a reverse ssh tunnel for remote login under Mac OS X, assuming you have a shell account called remoteuser@remotehost elsewhere. First, create a restricted ssh key without a password using roughly these shell commands, note the authorized_keys line must be prefixed by the access restrictions created by the echo command.
ssh-keygen -t rsa -f .ssh/clear_rsa
scp .ssh/clear_rsa.pub /etc/ssh_host_key.pub remoteuser@remotehost:.
ssh remoteuser@remotehost
echo -n 'command="",no-X11-forwarding ' >> .ssh/authorized_keys
cat clear_rsa.pub >> .ssh/authorized_keys
cat ssh_host_key.pub >> .ssh/known_hosts
rm clear_rsa.pub ssh_host_key.pub
Next, create the launchd entry /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.mefi.theft.plist containing the following, again changing macuser and remoteuser@remotehost.net, note you'll need sudo access.
<?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8'?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC -//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN
http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd >
<plist version='1.0'><dict>
<key>Label</key><string>org.mefi.theft</string>
<key>UserName</key><string>macuser</string>
<key>ProgramArguments</key>
<array>
   <string>/usr/bin/ssh</string>
   <string>-nNTx</string>
   <string>-i/Users/macuser/.ssh/clear_rsa</string>
   <string>-R 2222:127.0.0.1:22</string>
   <string>remoteuser@remotehost.net</string>
</array>
<key>Debug</key><false/>
<key>Disabled</key><false/>
<key>OnDemand</key><false/>
<key>RunAtLoad</key><false/>
</dict></plist>
You activate this launchd entry with the command "launchctl load /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.mefi.theft.plist", note you cannot have a space after the -i. In theory, you should have access to your machine by running the command "ssh macuser@localhost -p 2222" on the server remotehost.net. If anything goes wrong, debug it by looking for errors in Console.app. You could trivially adapt these instructions to Linux, but not Windows.

posted by jeffburdges at 10:45 AM on November 29, 2011


Oops, those directions are only half baked, ignore me.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:06 AM on November 29, 2011


Ahh, the OnDemand links should read <key>KeepAlive</key> <dict> <key>NetworkState</key><true/> </dict> anyways. :)
posted by jeffburdges at 2:52 PM on November 29, 2011


Related article, if you need real-life examples:
School-issued laptops used to spy on students
posted by RobotHero at 7:39 PM on November 29, 2011


That's not the worst of it. Hackers can turn your home computer into a BOMB! and blow your family to smithereens!!
posted by joelf at 6:45 PM on November 30, 2011


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