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Why you should be careful about which apps access your webcam

Webcam apps and security
(Image credit: Webcam)

We've become a social media, app-driven world in the last two decades. With that in mind, we all tend to use several apps that request access to our laptops and smartphone cameras and microphones. And when deciding to allow said access, it could make you vulnerable to cybercriminals seeking to steal many forms of your personal data, including financial data. 

According to a report from cybersecurity experts at Kaspersky, younger users are the most vulnerable, according to a poll of 15,000 people. Almost a quarter (23%) of users always permit apps to access their microphones and cameras. 

According to the data collected by Kaspersky, users aged 25-34, more than a quarter (27%) exhibit this dangerous behavior. However, those numbers drop significantly to just 9% for users over the age of 55. Generation X'ers seem to be far more wary and mindful of privacy risks, and 38% of this age group said they rarely give apps and services access to these components, compared to 9% of younger users. 

Nearly 6 in 10 adults (59%) are aware of the dangers of granting access to their microphones and webcams, and phone cameras. They seem almost hyper-aware of the malicious software invading their systems and ripping their privacy from them. 

The team at Kaspersky suggests the best answer for the problem is using common sense. With collaboration and communication apps being increasingly used as we shifted to working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Microsoft Teams grew a whopping 894% by June of 2020 compared to its usage only four months before in February of 2020. Sadly, simply declining won't do the job. People need to take an active role and pay more attention to which apps they're using and the kinds of permission apps are asking for. Video call and conferencing apps obviously require access to your microphone and camera and should be granted. However, most give you the option to choose only allowing access when actually using the app. 

You have to monitor the apps that truly do not require communication component access that asks for it, like a Calculator app, for example. Marina Titova, head of consumer product marketing for Kaspersky, said, " For sure, many people aren’t instantly familiar with security protocols related to webcam usage and cybersecurity processes." Many of us say yes to any apps requests to speed things up, to be honest. 

Titova continued by saying, " However, what we are observing now is a strong positive trend of increased awareness around online safety and potential threats. This leads to more proactive consumer behavior, like taking preventive actions and checking permissions before allowing video and microphone access. We also expect that the rise in cybersecurity consciousness will be supported by security awareness training arranged by businesses for their employees – especially as audio and video devices are now widely used for remote work."

Mark has spent 20 years headlining comedy shows around the country and made appearances on ABC, MTV, Comedy Central, Howard Stern, Food Network, and Sirius XM Radio. He has written about every topic imaginable, from dating, family, politics, social issues, and tech. He wrote his first tech articles for the now-defunct Dads On Tech 10 years ago, and his passion for combining humor and tech has grown under the tutelage of the Laptop Mag team. His penchant for tearing things down and rebuilding them did not make Mark popular at home, however, when he got his hands on the legendary Commodore 64, his passion for all things tech deepened. These days, when he is not filming, editing footage, tinkering with cameras and laptops, or on stage, he can be found at his desk snacking, writing about everything tech, new jokes, or scripts he dreams of filming.