back to article A webcam is not so much a leering eye as the barrel of a gun

“Strip it off!” commands a disembodied voice. “We want to see what you’ve got!” Strangers are watching me all across the Internet, waiting for the big reveal. At least, they would be if they could see anything. I have joined a Skype conference that is to be live-streamed to the general public and, subsequently, edited into a …

  1. Dr Scrum Master

    Enterprising

    There's a whole industry of web-cam covers that's sprung up. So no need for your masking tape and sticky residue...

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Enterprising

      This one works and doesn't look like crap. Rather expensive though. However if you've got a hand as steady as a band stand conductor's you will probably leave bits of residue while trying to stick it on as you move it just a bit for the umpteenth time.

      1. 's water music
        Thumb Down

        Re: Enterprising

        This one works and doesn't look like crap. Rather expensive though. However if you've got a hand as steady as a band stand conductor's you will probably leave bits of residue while trying to stick it on as you move it just a bit for the umpteenth time.

        'Customers also bought... (page 4): Kleenex Mansize Tissues, Compact Pack - 24 Box Pack (1200 Tissues Total)' so I would view that removable without any residue assertion with suspicion, or something.

        reverse grip?---->

    2. Potemkine Silver badge

      Re: Enterprising

      There's a whole industry of web-cam covers that's sprung up

      I use a post-it note: re-adherable and no sticky residue. Big enough to mask the mic too.

  2. MrT

    Black Mirror...

    Shut Up and Dance...

    I've only used black gaffer tape on the kids' laptop, until they grew out of the stage where Cbeebies games with their face on the Tellytubby sun were fun - there are loads of games like that. The Logitech golfball I use on this one has a flip-down cover, and is so old the drivers kick up a fuss, so sits unplugged on the shelf behind me.

    Times move on, though - selfie cameras on phones will be much more common these days, and many digital assistants are always listening...

  3. Tom 38 Silver badge
    Gimp

    I have the solution for this

    Every time I work from home, I'm either stark bollock naked or (if it is a little chilly) in my tighty whities. This has mostly led to significantly less requests for me to put the camera on when we do VC, apart from one Working Group who seem to only schedule meetings for me when I am working from home...

    1. Bucky 2

      Re: I have the solution for this

      That's why I secretly hope someone is watching me through my laptop's webcam. I like to imagine the horror and inevitable vomiting.

  4. Aaiieeee

    I think this is a reflection of the state of IT security. Somebody *could* have comprmised my laptop or software and I simply wouldn't know. I have to trust in.. well what, there isn't anything to trust in - the only guaranteed option is to obscure the lense. And whilst I am not to bothered by them watching me type an email or browse all kings of things, I don't want them seeing me. Why? Because I can't deny looking like me when a video gets posted to my family after I didn't pay the demanded ransom. But a capture of whats on my screen can be easily forged and is easy to deny etc, same as audio. Easy to say "thats not me".

    What about when you are on a conference call and you unknowingly clicked the 'send video' button and then proceed to pick your nose or roll your eyes and what is being said.

    Does this mean I am always acting in a way that I wouldnt want to share when at a laptop? No, but I want to have the choice to...

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Happy

      at about when you are on a conference call and you unknowingly clicked the 'send video' button and then proceed to pick your nose or roll your eyes and what is being said."

      A friend of mine was in a Video conference where someone accidentally shared their Desktop. They happened to be playing Freecell at the time. After about a minute of this, one of the Managers suggested the next move he should make. Cue paniced closing of Freecell, and unsharing of his Desktop and return of control to the guy actually giving the presentation. And naturally the entire conference laughing their arses off for the rest of the Meeting...

  5. Roger Kynaston Bronze badge
    Mushroom

    video

    I have only just had to start doing skype conference calls. The nice shiny laptop I got myself recently has a headphone jack but not one for an external mike so the funky earphones and boom mike don't bloody work. Thank you the manufacturer of former three letter laptop!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: video

      Still using a 3.5mm jack microphone, how quaint! You need a new USB microphone (and if the marketing bods have anything to do with it, "USB 3.0 for maximum fidelity and RGB mood lights, darling!")

      1. Elmer Phud

        Re: video

        Only if it has a 'USB' charger as well.

    2. John Miles

      Re: has a headphone jack but not one for an external mike

      Is it a headphone jack or a combined Headphone and Mic jack, which is what is provided on this HP - if so something like This may work

    3. Missing Semicolon
      Boffin

      Re: video

      It's a combination socket, that takes both headphone and microphone.

      You need an adaptor from TRRS (tip-ring-ring-sleeve) to two sockets, one for microphone, one for headphones.

      Or a pea-on-a-string phone headset might work.

      Typed on another formerly three-letter laptop.

      edit - Ninja'd!

      1. Nifty Silver badge

        Re: video

        My Lenovo W520 would work with mic 3.5mm socket using standard Apple EarPods. Haven't tried my current Lenovo with them though.

    4. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: video

      Get a USB headset then, there are plenty around. Or if you're desperate to keep the current headset, but a USB adapter with mic/headphone jacks built in - there are also plenty around for less than a fiver.

      edit - also Ninja'd!

    5. Montreux

      Re: video

      Lots of new laptops have the combined headphone and mic socket like on a phone. You can get an adapter if your headset has the old separate headphone and mic plugs.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: video

      How is your poor choice in laptops the manufacturer's fault?

    7. Kiwi Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: video

      I have only just had to start doing skype conference calls. The nice shiny laptop I got myself recently has a headphone jack but not one for an external mike so the funky earphones and boom mike don't bloody work. Thank you the manufacturer of former three letter laptop!

      I'm guessing that would be a Lenovo which only uses a propriety "$wipe the debt of several small nations" mic (uses the same jack as headphones, with a "$mcmansion" special adaptor cable)

      Got round that for a friend of mine, with a "so cheap I'll buy a couple just in case" USB sound card. Sound quality is more than good enough for what you wish :)

      HTH

  6. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    My solution to the laptop camera

    is the humble clothes peg. You know the ones you use to hang up your clothes on the washing line (when it ain't pissing down that is).

    Easy to apply and remove. And you always know when it is there blocking the voyeurs. When not in use it slips into your laptop bag and takes up little space.

    And it is reusable.

    1. earl grey Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: My solution to the laptop camera

      "is the humble clothes peg"

      Wait a minute...you're pegging your computer... mind bleach please

  7. magickmark

    I must still be old fashioned! I still use and external webcam on my desktop PC and just tend to keep my lint free spectacle cleaning cloth hung over it when not in use or if I'm feeling in a particular tin foil hat mode I'll just unplug it.

    And yes I know that would not work for a laptop with a built in cam, but I'd just use a bit of tape!!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "if I'm feeling in a particular tin foil hat mode I'll just unplug it."

      Why not make a little tinfoil hat for it?

    2. Omgwtfbbqtime
      Boffin

      Meh

      Just disable it in the bios. Then Skype wont even report that you are capable of transmitting video (at least it used to).

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    If someone wants to stare at my beer-belly, I'm quite happy to let them. In fact, I'm proud of my beer-belly. It's taken many hours of dedicated beer swilling down the local to achieve...

  9. Noonoot

    Alistair Dabbs is obviously a Depeche fan: Stripped, Barrel of a gun

    1. Franco Silver badge

      They're obviously his Personal Jesus.

      (I'll get my leather jacket...)

      1. LesB

        No need to start any Blasphemous Rumours.

        And I'm sure the conference Enjoyed the Silence when the feedback stopped.

  10. Baldy50

    Ummm?

    'Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart'. Never heard of that one before, not my type anyway, no offense your ruggedly handsome IMO.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Ummm?

      Every friday when I read the "technology tart" bit in little grey box at the bottom of Dabbsy's latest offering, James Brown starts singing "Sex Machine" in my head. Get up!

  11. MK_E

    All of this just leaves me wondering how bloody hard it is for manufacturers to include a little hardware switch to disable the damn thing entirely when it's not in use. God knows they love putting the wifi on/off switch on laptops in places you can hit it by accident.

    1. veti Silver badge

      If your camera had a separate "hardware" power switch, would you trust it?

      I wouldn't.

      1. quxinot Silver badge

        Why not a simple slider that not only covers the lens, but also keeps dust and debris off of it when not in use also?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          This. It's what some ASUS lappies come with-- shaped and labelled like a power switch but it's really just a shutter that slides between the outer plastic window in the bezel, and the CCD (or whatever). It didn't activate or deactivate anything AFAICT as there was no tactile response from any microswitch, not even a detent in either position. The U43J* w/bamboo and I think maybe the K53E had it but mine has no such mechanism, just a bit of black leccy tape.

          re: the above ranting about mic jacks: I have a pair of T21 with mic *and* line-in next to the headphone jack in the hard drive cover, so this being a new normal is just really rather sad. In my modernish laptop, my *headphone* jack only kicks on after a reboot if I hibernate and resume once. I love to download a 100MB driver package just to find out its muffler bearings are crooked so they muffle everything and none of the optional-update similarly large Realtek packages from MS that pop up from time to time have helped. Only In Windows(TM). My main OS doesn't believe in such nonsense and it always worked.

      2. P. Lee Silver badge

        Would you trust a hardware switch?

        Why not?

        Just load an os with no specific drivers and see if the USB device disappears when when you flick the switch.

        The vendor could fake it but there would be big trouble if they circumvented their security device.

  12. Potemkine Silver badge

    After all that noise...

    Enjoy The Silence

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: After all that noise...

      I enjoy a good feedback loop ... Cabaret Voltaire - Nag Nag Nag

  13. AdamG57

    Red dot

    Never understood why computers, unlike video cameras, don't have a red dot indicator showing that the camera/microphone is on.... I suppose it could be done in software tho. Anyone seen that, or willing to suggest how it could be programmed?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Red dot

      My iMac has a green light next to the lens whenever the camera is on. No idea if it's hardware controlled or software controlled though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Red dot

        I've seen blue lights, even on ~10-yr-old HPs, but if the light is controlled by the driver instead of the camera's USB interface, I wouldn't trust it. I had a guy at Worst Buy try to tell us it was triggered by sensing current being used in the module, and so a solid indicator of being watched. Probably hearsay.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Red dot

      Many do. Unfortunately they tend to be software controlled and therefore software disableable

  14. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    When my computer is idle I like to point the webcam at a detail from the Meddle album cover and run an mpg of a tinny mix of Hey Mickey on infinite loop. Anyone trying to catch a glimpse of the Steviebod will pay for the privilege.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An example why so much prep is needed

    At least that wasn't before the conference went live.

    Most video or tele-conferences seems to have a Dabbs presenter who cares so little about others that they couldn't be bothered to prepare and tries to connect just minutes before the conference goes live. It gets even worst when not caring to prepare includes a disdain for the technology being used and lies about what they are doing.

    This also happens in meetings when people want to bring and use their own laptop or phone at meetings.

    Meanwhile it is because of the many Dabbs out there that everybody has to connect long before the conference goes live, which is a huge waste of time for the majority that actually prepare.

    My response when it comes to running meetings is Draconian rules and lots of prep. Last conference we got the room for two days and one night, set everything up, redundant hardware, timed everything, had a plan to handle any failure or incident including fire and black out. Others hate it, but I've had major incidents occur unnoticed and my meetings ended on time with all targets met.

    Of course it means I and other team members cannot be the hero's created when lack of a plan creates chaos but that was fine with me. Though I have watched others create the chaos, let it cause huge delays and costs, and then fix the chaos they created and get promotions. So there is something to be said for letting a meeting fall apart due to lots of Dabbs and saving it at the last moment.

    1. Esme

      Re: An example why so much prep is needed

      -or maybe if it's that easy to get things wrong, then the technology involved isn't properly up to the mark yet?

      I've seen video conferencing go from something dismissed as being from the realms of SF (ie: in your dreams sunshine') by management through 'Ooh, we must embrace the shiny!' irrespective of how well it works, to the current almost-but-not-quite sorted situation where it's certainly possible to do decent video conferencing, but it's also way too easy to screw it up, too (asid from leaving lens caps on. That's just unavoidable human frailty).

      Bit like all things IT really. In my twenties, I had a pocket computer that ran for months on three button batteries which gave you a whole 1.4K of RAM to program in BASIC. I dreamt of one day having a machine of about the power of a Raspberry Pi in a format the size of a paperback book, with many megabytes of storage, and maybe it'd have a radio phone attachment too. Wild dreams, eh? Most closely approached in the venerable (but still wonderful IMO) Psion Organiser.

      Now we have 'phones' that exceed my wildest dreams in potential capability but that need continual recharging because of all the crap foisted upon us by phone manufacturers and operators, who also both seem to think that the thing you purchased is theirs to control, not yours. Meh. I'm still waiting for my dream pocket computer (and yes, I've heard of the Pocket CHIP, ta, and it'd need an LED or leccy paper display and a considerably longer battery life to meet my required specs)!

      As for the net itself - I remember using Fidonet and trying to imagine what it could be like if computer networking really took off in a big way. Not sure what I imagined back then, it;s been drowned out by all this (waves hand around), the best bits of which are El Reg, iPlayer, roller derby videos and cute cat videos IMNSHO. As for all the rest of it - meh. :-}

  16. wyatt

    I've never had to remove the label over my webcam, I don't know if it will come off any more..

    Most controlled conference calls I've been on have been with the Home Office. No prisoners taken by the host, what she said went with no waffle, that was all saved for p2p conversations afterwards.

  17. 100113.1537

    Why have a webcam?

    I remove the "webcam" option when I buy new notebooks. Sometimes I even have to pay more(!), but I haven't missed it.

    I web-conference a lot, but what people need to see are the documents we are working on or the slides we are talking about. My ugly mug is hardly critical to the conversation....

  18. cd

    Blu-Tack

    A Little Dab'll Do Ya!

  19. Herby

    Switch??

    A nice physical switch should be right next to all web cams as a matter of course. Of course some vendor will just make the switch a digital input that tells the computer to disable the camera, but at least it would be a switch.

    Ideally it would make the light next to the camera go green. When the camera is "activated" the tally light would go red, of course. Maybe a manufacturer is listening, but I have doubts.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Switch??

      A little slider that obscures the lens would easier and cheaper to implement, also a switch is ambiguous, if it affects the driver rather than the hardware it might possible to circumvent it so you'd be back to sticky tape.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Switch??

        Agreed. I've long thought that a sliding cover (that also works as a switch for posh laptops) should be mandatory on laptops and phones. No ambiguity, plus the lens is protected, so it works better when you do want one.

  20. willi0000000

    tried to market camera covers years ago . . . wanted to call it The i-Patch . . . can't understand why it wouldn't fly.

  21. John 104
    Mushroom

    Down vote me all you want, but anyone who uses tape to disable their web cam and who is on this site are a bunch of fuckwits. Especially you, Dabsie.

    Software to disable your web cam? Please tell me you didn't pay for that... For fucks sake, this is a technology news site. The writers and readers should have a basic understanding of device management, regardless of your choice of operating system. Go into your fucking device manager, disable the webcam. Done. Can't figure that out? Go read Wired.

    1. mourner
      WTF?

      All hail the Padawan. Forgive him his arrogance for he is only at the beginning of his journey on the path to complete knowledge. Much to learn he still does.

      So.... that bit of malware that secreted itself away running in the background, capturing your webcam images for later use.... that couldn't possibly manipulate what device status is displaying for a given device in your holy grail Device Manager?

      No sirreeee... no possibility at all, whatsoever. /sarc

      Now, I would suggest your time would be better spent getting a "basic understanding of device management" and associated security matters rather than posting smug better than thou posts to ElReg.

      Or perhaps go and read Wired then find another profession that better suits your wanton incompetence.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Not far enough

        In addition to disabling the webcam drivers, I have overwriiten the driver files with a blank file (admin only rights to amend) and then run a user account that lacks the privileges.

        If someone can get through all that, install new drivers, enable the webcam (without it showing as enabled) then I might as well start looking for bugs behind the light switch.

  22. Grunchy

    Lens Cap

    I remember a time when I had Canon AE-1 which featured the technological innovation known as "lens cap", which was opaque.

    My old Sony "Bloggie" has a swiveling lens that actually swivels right into itself, accomplishing the same thing.

    Its like an eyeball. Sure, you could do something as easy as draw shut an eye lid; but wouldn't it be better to prise it from its socket & sever its optic nerve?

  23. Pliny the Whiner

    When squirrels were squirrels and men were men

    "Down vote me all you want, ..."

    Well. Hmm. Someone woke up on the wrong side of the Dumpster, didn't they?

    1. Grunchy

      Re: When squirrels were squirrels and men were men

      you're free to down vote my post!

      If you want to.

      I guess.

    2. John 104

      Re: When squirrels were squirrels and men were men

      No really. :)

      The post was written by AD to show how clever he was in being a clueless idiot managing his own kit. He should be embarrassed.

      Are we technology professionals or aren't we? Using tape is surely a great mechanical way to solve the problem. But it isn't necessary with a basic understanding of how computers work. Using tape places you with 'them'. You know, users. I thought we were a cut above. Guess not…

      1. KjetilS

        Re: When squirrels were squirrels and men were men

        Any software (trojan or other) can easily re-enable your webcam and send as much video as it wants. Putting something in front of the lens removes that possibility.

        1. John 104
          Headmaster

          Re: When squirrels were squirrels and men were men

          While the alleged torjan may be able to enable in device manager, putting tape in front of the lens doesn't remove that ability ;)

          1. Alister Silver badge

            Re: When squirrels were squirrels and men were men

            While the alleged trojan may be able to enable the camera in device manager, putting tape in front of the lens doesn't remove that ability ;)

            No, it doesn't, but here's a clue: It stops the camera seeing anything!

            In an earlier post, you put:

            Using tape is surely a great mechanical way to solve the problem. But it isn't necessary with a basic understanding of how computers work.

            I would counter that anyone with more than a basic understanding of how computers work, knows that software lies and therefore hardware (a piece of tape) is the most conclusive solution.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: When squirrels were squirrels and men were men

              Tape (or in my case a bit of Rizla packet held on with tape) is simple, cheap, 100% effective, and you can see it's working easily. What's not to like?

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: When squirrels were squirrels and men were men

          "Any software (trojan or other) can easily re-enable your webcam and send as much video as it wants. Putting something in front of the lens removes that possibility."

          Unless, of course, what you think is the lens isn't really the lens and it's much more insidiously concealed in a spot where tape isn't an option. And no, you can't cut the wires off the camera without potentially bricking the machine...

      2. Wensleydale Cheese

        Re: When squirrels were squirrels and men were men

        " Using tape is surely a great mechanical way to solve the problem. But it isn't necessary with a basic understanding of how computers work."

        KISS principle.

        Keep It Simple, Stupid.

      3. Tom 64
        Windows

        Re: When squirrels were squirrels and men were men

        Software can be subverted. A physical obstruction over the aperture, like nuking from orbit, its the only way to be sure.

  24. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Old joke

    https://twitter.com/pacohope/status/498786103441514496

  25. ecofeco Silver badge

    You know how I know this is fiction?

    More than 3 people had working cameras in a single teleconference.

    Go one, tell us another one!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What works, what doesn't?

    Personally, I do all I can: I disabled the webcam in BIOS, I compiled webcam support out of the kernel and I have a piece of duct tape over it.

    Any one of those would do it, but I use those 3 techniques... Why? I don't even know it myself.

    My paranoia is telling me that disabling it in BIOS and kernel doesn't help. Who knows what kind of cr*p Intel builds into their CPUs and chipsets nowadays?

    Intel AMT is proper scary if an unauthorized user has access to it...

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: What works, what doesn't?

      Intel is not alone with its IME. AMD has equivalent PSP which is just as evil.

      Libreboot FAQ is an interesting read. No, you don't really have much control over any recent technology and are at the mercy of the vendor.

      (Yes I have posted this link before in another thread sometime ago.)

    2. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: What works, what doesn't?

      Personally, I do all I can: I disabled the webcam in BIOS, I compiled webcam support out of the kernel and I have a piece of duct tape over it.

      I'd suggest one better.. If you don't need it, remove it. If you do need it, remove it anyway, buy a cheap USB one or re-fit it when needed.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: What works, what doesn't?

        Personally I corrupt the driver files themselves. If a hacker sees that the files are missing they already know why they can't see anything. If everything is all there (just knackered) they are facing with having to re-install the device drivers using admin rights.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: What works, what doesn't?

          They may HAVE admin rights, you know, to pwn your machine. This can give them the ability to install replacement drivers (which they may do anyway to make the camera lie about it being turned off).

  27. HWwiz

    What webcam.....

    Go into the Bios,

    Webcam, Disable.

    Save, exit.

    Job done, no more worries.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: What webcam.....

      Go into the Bios,

      Webcam, Disable.

      Save, exit.

      Job done, no more worries.

      Bratling/spouse/nasty_type goes into BIOS, re-enables, saves. Also opens case, puts black paint/tape/whatever as necessary over any camera LED.

      You have no more worries, but they have wall-wall HWwiz vids.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: What webcam.....

      "Go into the Bios,

      Webcam, Disable."

      That doesn't necessarily mean nothing can find and use it. As I discovered to my cost, many years ago when trying out installs of Linux and FreeBSD on a secondary HDD and disabled the primary Windows drive to be sure I wouldn't accidentally install over the live Windows OS. Oh how I laughed when I did make that exact mistake and discovered that neither Linux nor FreeBSD gives a shit about devices being disabled in the BIOS. If it exists, there are drivers in the kernel, then it's usable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What webcam.....

        FWIW a kernel can still do what it's told sometimes, like in mine: had to disable the touchpad in UEFI because it sucks and the hotkey to disable it in Win7 doesn't work at all and for some reason it wasn't possible to silence it in DM either. I use my own mouse anyway, so it is just an odd part of the palmrest now for both OSes. However, this suggests that the kernel can be told to ignore that option just as you said:

        $ dmesg | grep -i ps/2

        [ 2.029074] i8042: PNP: PS/2 Controller [PNP0303:PS2K] at 0x60,0x64 irq 1

        [ 2.029075] i8042: PNP: PS/2 appears to have AUX port disabled, if this is incorrect please boot with i8042.nopnp

        [ 2.029731] mousedev: PS/2 mouse device common for all mice

        $

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What webcam.....

          <snip>

          [ 1.685592] i8042: PNP detection disabled

          [ 1.687546] i8042: Detected active multiplexing controller, rev 1.1

          [ 1.688585] serio: i8042 KBD port at 0x60,0x64 irq 1

          [ 1.688623] serio: i8042 AUX0 port at 0x60,0x64 irq 12

          [ 1.688646] serio: i8042 AUX1 port at 0x60,0x64 irq 12

          [ 1.688686] serio: i8042 AUX2 port at 0x60,0x64 irq 12

          [ 1.688714] serio: i8042 AUX3 port at 0x60,0x64 irq 12

          [ 1.725484] input: AT Translated Set 2 keyboard as /devices/platform/i8042/serio0/input/input4

          and surprisingly the touchpad still doesn't work. Too bad I have the Intel ME anyway.

  28. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Black tape for the mic?

    Yes, yes, we can all (bar one *) see that tape is simple and effective against the camera, but our esteemed author *also* noted that the microphone needs to be silenced and I haven't heard much from you lot on that front. I can hear (a little) through brick walls FFS, so a thin layer of tape appears unlikely to be as effective for sound as it is for light. A significant problem, it would seem to me, is that (some) sound can enter the microphone from behind (through the back of the laptop case) as well as through the obvious grille at the front.

    So what's the best way of shrouding the average built-in laptop microphone? Or is the only sure method to crak open the case, cut the wires, and plug in an external mic when you need one?

    (* So I'll be ignoring the first down-vote...)

    1. David Haig

      Re: Black tape for the mic?

      Blutac - works for both camera and mic, obvious when in place, easy to remove without much residue and also helps deaden the resonance of the casing that the mic will also "hear"

    2. Kiwi Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Black tape for the mic?

      Or is the only sure method to crak open the case, cut the wires, and plug in an external mic when you need one?

      That'd be my vote (sure I'll get an unexplained downvote for this one as well! :) ). Physical disconnection is the only sure way to make it not work. That or act like it is on all the time, and be careful what you say/play in front of it ;)

      There's the idea of bluetack but I have my doubts how effective that would be. If I had some to hand I might actually give it a try, as well as a few other ideas. I can see how it could work, but knowing how sensitive some cheap little microphones are, I'm not sure it would deaden the vibrations enough to be truly safe.

      Unplugging/cutting is best. A physical break is impossible to defeat via software, no matter what movies you watch.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Black tape for the mic?

        But it's also easiest to detect, meaning your OS will probably keep bit ching at you. At least it's not yet to the point that killing spy gear bricks your machine.

      2. Toni the terrible
        Happy

        Re: Black tape for the mic?

        With respect to the mic, just don't talk to yourself - I know it's hard but you could try. Also you could play loud music, even using the same computer. Then again I normally have my USB webcam pointed at the sky outside or at the neighbours, so what do I know?

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Black tape for the mic?

          "With respect to the mic, just don't talk to yourself - I know it's hard but you could try."

          Not really. Many of us do it on reflex: SUBconsciously, meaning we talk without even realizing we're talking. And what about people who talk in their sleep but have to keep their computers on for overnight jobs?

  29. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    an endlessly repeating cacophony of polyvocal babble screaming over itself.

    If you get asked by the NHS to roll out something similar you may like to mull over the consequences before committing...

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/11/14/nhs_email_test_reply_all_fail_1_2_million_users/

  30. David Shaw

    I'm of course fully protected by an Arduino 'Hacked" sticker over my mac webcam/mic - and further by use of the free software produced by (allegedly) ex-NSA engineers here https://objective-see.com/products/oversight.html

    I just need http://kgb.by/ to release a tool to monitor my ex-NSA monitor. . . etc

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What I did

    Took camera out, added radioisotope (241Am) flat disk source, disabled microphone, reassembled.

    Turns out that said sources can be had from expired alarms which have had the "Tattle Chip" go off so it beeps once every few minutes to remind you to change the unit.

    Bonus: my camera now doubles as an entropy source, for added geek cred include a piece of scintillator film so it can detect increases in radiation.

    Enough particles get through the <0.5mm plastic cover to generate about 10 flashes/second on the sensor.

  32. mstreet
    Coat

    So many options

    Don't any of you chew gum?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: So many options

      No because I normally also kick ass. Problem is I usually run out of bubblegum beforehand.

  33. Contrex

    When I am in my (Government) office, my Lenovo all-in-one desktop has a camera on top of the screen which can swivel vertically to show/hide the lens and activity light. Like the Microsoft "driver", it injects black if you forget to swivel it up.

  34. herman Silver badge
    Devil

    Ice Pick

    If you jam an ice pick into the camera, it makes a very satisfying crunch sound.

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