“There’s a chip in the battery, a chip in the keyboard, a chip in the camera.” Mac Books are designed to prevent software running on the Mac Book’s central processing unit (CPU) from activating its i Sight camera without turning on the light.But researchers figured out how to reprogram the chip inside the camera, known as a micro-controller, to defeat this security feature.
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The woman was shocked when she received two nude photos of herself by e-mail.
The photos had been taken over a period of several months — without her knowledge — by the built-in camera on her laptop.
Their research is under consideration for an upcoming academic security conference.
The researchers also provided us with a copy of their proof-of-concept software.
One laptop, many chips The built-in cameras on Apple computers were designed to prevent this, says Stephen Checkoway, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins and a co-author of the study.
“Apple went to some amount of effort to make sure that the LED would turn on whenever the camera was taking images,” Checkoway says.
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.
That allows the camera to be turned on while the light stays off.
Most laptops with built-in cameras have an important privacy feature — a light that is supposed to turn on any time the camera is in use.
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.