"Cover your webcam when you're not using it"

Belgium's Federal Computer Crime Unit says it's "a good precaution" to tape up or cover your computer's webcam when you are not using it. There are cases of webcam hackers in Belgium that collect private footage of victims, in order to blackmail them later on. However, police immediately that's it's not a widespread problem in Belgium, and that there is no reason to panic.

"It's very rare that we see webcam hacking in Belgium", explains Pieterjan Van Leemputten of the IT magazine Data News. "However, it's technically possible for hackers to hack your webcam if your computer is affected by a virus. Then it's easy for them to see what you are doing, or to hear what you are saying."

Victims won't notice that things are going wrong. A lamp that indicates if the webcam is working or not, can be switched off by hackers even when the webcam is collecting footage. In fact, hackers gain access to your private life and intrude from a distance when they want it, as they can switch your webcam on and off, IT specialists warn.

"No need to get paranoid"

Peter Dewaele of the federal police speaks about "a couple of cases" of webcam hacking in Belgium that came to light when the victims were being blackmailed afterwards. "Blackmailers say: "Look, we collected footage from you, and we will put it on the internet unless you pay a certain amount of money.""

Veerle Vonckx from Keerbergen was a victim. "I had my laptop open and went in another room to take my mobile phone. When I returned, I saw a picture of myself on my screen, in my pyjamas. I got a message that I had to pay a fine because I visited the wrong websites."

There is an easy way to avoid this. Just cover your webcam camera if you want to be sure as nowadays, almost all laptops have a webcam. "There is no need to get paranoid", explains Van Leemputten, "but we advise to take these easy precautions."