Ex-Official: FBI Can Remotely Activate Your Webcam Without The Indicator Light Turning On

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

The FBI is capable of remotely accessing a computer’s camera without turning on the indicator light, a former FBI official told the Washington Post.

Marcus Thomas, the former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, Va., said FBI surveillance teams work much like hackers.

They gain access to computers through security weaknesses, sometimes through simple phishing scams. Clicking an unassuming link in an email connects the computer to the FBI at Quantico.

“We have transitioned into a world where law enforcement is hacking into people’s computers, and we have never had public debate,” Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Post. “Judges are having to make up these powers as they go along.”

Malicious software delivered to the computer can gather a wide range of information, including web browsing history and indicators that show the location of the computer.

Thomas said the FBI has been able to activate webcams, without turning on the record light, for several years. That technique has already been used in terrorism and serious criminal investigation.

“Because of encryption and because targets are increasingly using mobile devices, law enforcement is realizing that more and more they’re going to have to be on the device — or in the cloud,” Thomas added, referring to remote storage services. “There’s the realization out there that they’re going to have to use these types of tools more and more.”

Opponents to these techniques argue that the FBI is collecting a vast amount of data indiscriminately.

“You can’t just go on a fishing expedition,” said Laura K. Donohue, a Georgetown University law professor, who reviewed three recent court rulings on the FBI’s surveillance software. “There needs to be a nexus between the crime being alleged and the material to be seized. What they are doing here, though, is collecting everything.”

Sources: TheBlaze, Washington Post