Webcams are great for video conversations on FaceTime, Skype, or even for the occasional selfie in Photo Booth, but the scary truth is that you might not be the only person seeing your images. Hackers have long used webcams as a way of spying on unknowing victims, capturing images that can be used for blackmail or intimidation, and generally being a bit pervy.
Fear not though, there are simple ways you can protect yourself from this invasion of privacy and make sure that when you sit at your laptop it isn’t watching what you do. So read on as we show you how to disable your MacBook webcam and keep the spies in the dark.
For more options on how to prevent access to your Mac's webcam, see this article.
How to disable a MacBook webcam: Cover the lens
Perhaps the fastest way to stop hackers from capturing video or still images of you is to obscure their view. This high-tech solution involves a sophisticated technique known as ‘sticking a bit of tape over the camera’. It might sound crude but it’s a security measure adopted by the likes of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and James Comey, who just happens to be the Director of the FBI. In fact the latter likens it to locking your doors at night.
Obviously clear sticky tape isn’t really much use, but masking tape or scotch tape do the job nicely. If you don’t want anything sticky getting on the lens then you could always cut a small strip off of a Post-It note so that the sticky part fixes it above the camera and the normal paper covers the lens. Then you can secure it by placing tape over the top.
There you go. Two minutes and about 5p in office supplies has literally got you covered.
How to disable a MacBook webcam: Silencing your microphones
Of course video isn’t the only thing active when your camera comes on, there’s also audio. This can be trickier to subdue as sound has a tendency to bleed through coverings more effectively than video.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try taping up the inputs on your MacBook. These are usually the two small holes found on the side of chassis, often near the headphone input.
Cut a couple of thin strips of tape then take one and attach an end near the palm rest area of your MacBook, wrap it around the end to cover the microphone, then secure it to the bottom of the machine. Repeat this for the other microphone and you have a least a basic level of protection. We’d advise a thicker material, such as electrical tape, but masking tape is a good place to start.
If you want to test the effectiveness of your audio security you can call of friend on FaceTime and then see how much of your utterances they can hear.
How to disable a MacBook webcam: Setting input volume levels
Another method of warding off snoopers is to mute the input from your microphones. To do this you’ll need to open System Preferences>Sound, then select the Internal Microphone option and then slide the Input Volume control down to zero.
You’ll have to adjust this again if you want to use the mic, but it’s a quick way to make things slightly more difficult for hackers. It’s no guarantee though, as malware that attacks webcams could also be set to change the input volume settings.
Unless you disable the webcam entirely, which involves command line instructions or physically removing the unit, then you’ll have to accept a certain level of risk. This means it’s a good idea to exercise restraint when it comes to sharing any sensitive information while sat at your laptop or speaking with people on video chats.
How to disable a MacBook webcam: Monitoring webcam activity
One final idea you could use is to employ a third-party app that monitors your webcam and microphone activity. A popular choice at Macworld towers is that of Oversight, which is one of several free security programs available from the Objective-See website.
Oversight is a simple app that looks for whenever a program accesses the webcam or microphones and immediately sends the user an alert to let them know. This includes when malware attempts to piggyback on a service such as Skype, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime without the user’s knowledge.
It’s free, easy to use, and could prove a potent weapon against the digital eavesdroppers out there today.