back to article Pussy galore: Bubble-bath webcam spy outrage

“I can make money from it, so why not?” This was a soundbite from a Radio 5 Live phone interview with a “Finnish webcam hacker” who claimed to have “sold” the ability to watch women as they sit in front of their laptops. The reporter and presenters were suitably appalled at the callous and blatant admission, and everyone …

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  1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Laptops in the bath?

    What sort of wally takes an expensive laptop into the bath with them to watch a DVD? Even if it doesn't fall in the bath, I doubt if spending time in a damp and steamy bathroom does the electronics much good. That's why I like cheap second-hand paperbacks - if they end up in the water they don't electrocute you and are cheap. Can't say the same for an e-reader or laptop.

    1. Tom7

      Re: Laptops in the bath?

      My other half does this. Now, to hack into her webcam... oh, or I could just wait until she gets out of the bath.

      1. Wzrd1

        Re: Laptops in the bath?

        "My other half does this. Now, to hack into her webcam... oh, or I could just wait until she gets out of the bath."

        Strange notion. I would just join her in the bath.

        Of course, that would end up necessitating another bath.

        But then, we have a large bathtub and keep that ancient iron thing for just that reason.

        No webcam needed. :)

    2. Justin Stringfellow
      Coat

      Re: Laptops in the bath?

      I thought the scam involved telling the user that there was a problem, and that they needed to put the laptop in a humid environment (such as a steamy bathroom) to solve it.

      So you see... not so stupid after all.

      Oh, right.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Laptops in the bath?

      well actually I have done this...

      BUT all webcams I know have a light on them to indicate if they are active... so if you see it on, get suspicious.. otherwise don't worry... to me its the invasion of privacy, I don't care if I am full clothed or naked!

      1. HamsterNet
        Happy

        Re: Laptops in the bath?

        You don't put the laptop IN the bath! just prop it up somewhere convenient to see the screen, like on the loo seat.

      2. JimmyPage Silver badge
        Stop

        all webcams I know have a light on them to indicate if they are active..

        surely if the webcam can be turned on without your knowing, the light could also be disabled ?

        1. David Hicks
          Stop

          Re: all webcams I know have a light on them to indicate if they are active..

          >> surely if the webcam can be turned on without your knowing, the light could also be disabled ?

          Thankfully this is usually not software controllable, and the LED is hooked into the circuit that activates the sensor.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: all webcams I know have a light on them to indicate if they are active..

            ... But surely it is a requirement within the licensing package(s) for the "anti-piracy" measures that the LED is controllable by the content providers? To protect the children ....

          2. swissrobin

            Re: all webcams I know have a light on them to indicate if they are active..

            Nope, the LED is software controlled. Now it might be that the software driver doesn't expose the two features independently but the image sensor itself is quite able to start/stop image capture without any LED being turned on/off.

            Actually none of the 8 laptops in my house have an LED that activates when the web camera is turned on, either.

            Robin

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: all webcams I know have a light on them to indicate if they are active..

              I quite often use my laptop in the bath. It rests on the side and I can type into it fine, although I wouldn't want to do any serious writing or coding like that. If it fell into the bath (it never has because I position it so it can't) it'll probably be knackered, but it's all backed up and I'll get a new one from my employer.

              I'm pretty confident this will never happen though.

              I also join conference calls from the bath, and the bog for that matter. Handy thing, the mute button. Nobody ever knows.....

              As for the webcam, there's a light which comes on, and even if someone could see me, they're not going to see anything exciting. Just my face watching the screen. Potentially a little screwed up if I'm squeezing one out.

          3. Wzrd1

            Re: all webcams I know have a light on them to indicate if they are active..

            "Thankfully this is usually not software controllable, and the LED is hooked into the circuit that activates the sensor."

            Not the last time I saw driver software for a webcam.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Laptops in the bath?

        I have a number of webcams of varying ages. Only 1 has a light which goes on to say it's active. The others either have no light or it's simply a power indicator.

        1. David Hicks

          Re: Laptops in the bath?

          Pretty sure by the time they started being built in to laptops the LED became a standard feature.

          1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

            Camera LED's

            Camera 1: LED can be controlled independently by hacking the firmware.

            Camera 2: No LED.

            If you want to be sure of privacy, use a lens cover.

            1. Wzrd1

              Re: Camera LED's

              If I ever bring my laptop into the bathroom, I'll not bother.

              The last stranger who caught a look at my bum turned to stone and remains that way still.

      4. Wzrd1

        Re: Laptops in the bath?

        "BUT all webcams I know have a light on them to indicate if they are active... "

        Not really, I recall some ancient malware that activated a webcam and didn't turn on the indicator light. Memory recalls something about Yahoo messenger, though the years could be betraying me.

  2. TeeCee Gold badge
    Happy

    "...Itani wins this month’s Spirited Away American Dub..."

    Ah. You've never seen any of the BAD (Bad American Dubbing) anime compilations then?

    My personal prize example is home-grown though. That's the (now very) old Crusader Video dub of "All purpose cultural Catgirl NukuNuku", which features the two henchgirl pilot types with comedy Brummie accents. Hysterical.

    Many years ago, at an anime convention, one of the lads I'd been hanging around with proudly produced a copy of this which he'd just picked up secondhand, saving him the cost of the three individual NukuNuku videos he'd been thinking of buying. I pointed out that the woman who had been behind Crusader Video was on the other side of the room and I was sure that, if he asked nicely, she'd sign it for him.

    I can be a right bastard at times......

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    you don't want to cam your kids

    Because you really don't want to know what they get up to, just that they get home in one piece.

    1. wowfood

      Re: you don't want to cam your kids

      Might be useful to help with bullying though. Video evidence of the big bully billy beating britanny black and blue because her braids brushed his bacon bap.

    2. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Re: you don't want to cam your kids

      "Because you really don't want to know what they get up to"

      You don't need to - you were doing it when you were their age.

      ( and if you weren't, why not?)

      You survived - and what a great time it was, too.

      My kids knew I'd not go apeshit if something happened but find out if they were O.K. first.

      I was that parent my kids could ring to collect from a party and sober up a 15yr old who was crapping themselves due to over-protective parents.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: you don't want to cam your kids

        "You don't need to - you were doing it when you were their age."

        I once made that observation to my sister over some rather rigid proscription she had introduced for her kids. Her response was "Yes - and that's why they not allowed to do it".

        A friend had a similar attitude. Her teenage children used to "confess" to me - rather than put their father in the awkward bind of knowing the transgression. They would also say "but don't tell Mum". To which my answer was "as long as you never tell her I knew".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: you don't want to cam your kids

          You need to give your kids the freedom to make their own discoveries, and the protection to make sure those discoveries don't kill them.

          If your kids don't occasionally give you a heart attack you haven't lived, or don't have kids at all :)

          1. Wzrd1

            Re: you don't want to cam your kids

            "You need to give your kids the freedom to make their own discoveries, and the protection to make sure those discoveries don't kill them."

            True enough, though the first lesson is "tell him to vulcanize that vagabond".

            A lesson my sister in law didn't impart, resulting in a teen pregnancy and her now incessant babysitting.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: you don't want to cam your kids

              "You don't need to - you were doing it when you were their age."

              "You need to give your kids the freedom to make their own discoveries, and the protection to make sure those discoveries don't kill them."

              Why I refuse to have kids in the first place, otherwise I agree, has the harm happened,you got a kid, you need to do the best of it.

              1. LaeMing Bronze badge
                Unhappy

                /I/ wasn't doing /that/ at that age.

                Boy did I miss out!

      2. Wzrd1

        Re: you don't want to cam your kids

        "You don't need to - you were doing it when you were their age."

        Not I. Back then, we were pure personal interaction only. Indeed, cameras only used film back then, there was digital image processing was in its very infancy.

  4. Goldmember

    Goddamn

    I hate cats.

    That is all.

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: Goddamn

      "I hate cats."

      Cats taste good.

      At least, that is what my cats convinced themselves of when they stepped into my snoring mouth in the middle of the night. :/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Soft fluffy paws

        They use them to bury their poop.

  5. Maharg
    Trollface

    Or in summary...

    ‘Pics or it didn’t happen’…

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Re: Or in summary...

      I thought that was a reply to Goldmember's comment

  6. Crisp Silver badge
    Facepalm

    All this controversy about Google Glass

    And cats have been secretly filming us for ages.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: All this controversy about Google Glass

      It must've been quite bad actually. The amount of times cats have tried to follow me into the bathroom is unbelieavable. How many hours of footage did they have of a cat staring at somebody trying to drop a duece.

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge
        Coat

        Re: All this controversy about Google Glass

        How many hours of footage did they have of a cat staring at somebody trying to drop a duece.

        However, this may explain why people have been patenting plop filters..

        The dirty Mac, thanks.

      2. Wzrd1

        Re: All this controversy about Google Glass

        "The amount of times cats have tried to follow me into the bathroom is unbelieavable."

        I let them. They beat a hasty retreat once I began to, erm, produce.

        Regrettably, my bum insisted I remain with it during the process, to admire the newly peeling paint...

      3. Greg J Preece

        Re: All this controversy about Google Glass

        The amount of times cats have tried to follow me into the bathroom is unbelieavable.

        Tried? Mine wander in all the time. When I lived on my own, they figured out that it was a perfect time to pester me for attention; captive audience and all that.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Friday

    I understand that concept, even though it might be somewhat blurred for all of us (?) freelancers, contractors, outsourcees, etc.. Still, I lost the plot over the point of the text. Was there any point? Like... there's no hacking via webcam, it's an urban myth? There is webcam hacking, but it's blown out of proportions? Is the heroine (attractive, isn't she?) talking pants, innocently, or on purpose, to gain her 5 milliseconds of fame? Is is a part of a quiet government PR campaign to censor the internet (further)? Or am I looking for a point, where there's none, because it's like, Friday?

    1. Richard Pennington 1
      Coat

      Re: Friday

      More likely, talking lack of pants.

      I'm not wearing a coat.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Friday

      > I lost the plot over the point of the text. Was there any point?

      Yes. It's about pussies on camera.

      1. Wzrd1

        Re: Friday

        "Yes. It's about pussies on camera."

        Or more often, granny panties on camera.

        Or worse, my hairy bum. One that has grown, along with my waistline since my retirement from the military and my muscles retired downward.

  8. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

    Re: "...kick it under the fir tree and urinate on it..."

    It's an imperious feline. It would have you do the kicking and the urinating.

  9. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Senses working overtime

    My own personal fear of Google Glass is not so much that I might leave them on while having a post-coital bath so much as while having a post-curry dump

    It could be worse - at least they only deal with vision rather than all five senses (or at least don't include smell-o-vision).

  10. bag o' spanners
    Pint

    "Can you straighten the camera a bit? I'm getting an awful crick in my neck, and it's playing havoc with my fapteknik"

  11. James 36
    Meh

    blah

    no new laws required covered by existing hacking laws isn't it ?

    IANAL

  12. Danny 5
    Happy

    integrated webcam

    My company laptop has an integrated webcam and even though it has a light that shows when it's on and i'm confident i can't be spied on, i still cover the lens when i set it up at home. A healthy dose of paranoia is a good thing when you're online.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: integrated webcam

      It is always wise to remember Murphy's Law - "If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong - at the worst possible moment".

      There is a corollary - "Anything you consciously do to avoid a problem is likely to increase the chance of it happening".

      1. beachmunkey

        Nothing to do with the article..

        Corollary - New word of the week.

        Cheers!

    2. marturion

      Re: integrated webcam

      Yes, a bit of duct tape over the lens, and perhaps over the microphone are a cheap way of helping to secure your privacy. Another idea is to get a Raspberry Pi computer and set it up as a logging device on your internet connection. place it in the line between your internet connection and router and log all the packets, IT might be interesting to see what is really in the traffic.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: integrated webcam

        "IT might be interesting to see what is really in the traffic."

        Unfortunately the amount of network traffic generated by PCs these days bears no relationship to the apparently idling UI state. Just about everything wants to phone home on a regular basis. Even with a good abstraction analysis it is hard to sort the wheat from the chaff unless you know specifically what you are expecting for a particular function.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: integrated webcam

        Apparently there's this thing called Wireshark? ;)

        1. Wzrd1

          Re: integrated webcam

          "Apparently there's this thing called Wireshark? ;)"

          You Wireshark. I'll Snort. Far, far, far, far, far less storage necessary.

  13. David Hicks
    Mushroom

    Ratters

    Only found out about these wastes of skin a little while ago. Hanging's too good for 'em, evil f*ckers.

    1. SoaG

      Re: Ratters

      The scope of this problem came to my attention a few months back:

      http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/03/rat-breeders-meet-the-men-who-spy-on-women-through-their-webcams

      Having young daughters myself, I decided to do a little further investigation on my own to verify. While not ubiquitous, it's certainly more widespread than I expected, or Mr. Dabbs seems willing to believe. Both in terms of the number of pwned devices the trading and selling of control of same. I've already removed such software from the computer of a female acquaintance last month.

      Suffice to say any integrated cameras in my home get disabled and the external ones get unplugged when not in use. A simple enough precaution, no new laws required.

      1. Wzrd1

        Re: Ratters

        "Suffice to say any integrated cameras in my home get disabled and the external ones get unplugged when not in use. "

        I put a few pan-tilt model webcams in to keep an eye on my aged father. Noticing that one had a propensity to FTP out to an Asian host, I blocked FTP on my router.

        Don't use FTP anyway, I use SFTP or SCP.

        If the camera is sneaking traffic by that I have yet to observe, heaven help the observer.

        For, they would have the great joy of seeing an unclothed 83 year old man on one camera.

        That would most assuredly cure them.

        But then, Snort would've caught such traffic.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ratters

          Got any docco on how to setup Snort to decrypt SFTP and SCP?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    6 of 1, 1/2*12 of the other

    "I like the idea of countering impersonal stats, which are laughably easy to fabricate and misrepresent, with a few stories of personal experience by real peoplewhich are also laughably easy to fabricate and misrepresent."

    I think you had a minor spelling error there....

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: 6 of 1, 1/2*12 of the other

      No, you can verify people's experiences, assuming you're not a BBC reporter taking everything at face value. The problem with statistics is that they can be manipulated to suggest anything you like, regardless of whether the original data was verifiable or not.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 6 of 1, 1/2*12 of the other

        Can you? How?

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: 6 of 1, 1/2*12 of the other

          Both can be faked. You can check 1 anecdote, you cannot check 1000 statistics. Which one can you check and be sure of in a hurry?

          anecdotes aint much help, but "I once skidded on ice" is a warning none the less as much as "50/1000 people skid on icy roads each winters day".

  15. The New Turtle
    Happy

    Not quote up to BOFH standards, but entertaining as a Friday afternoon read.

  16. Fred Flintstone Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Quality..

    "Precisely why people set up their laptops specifically to face their bathtubs is curious enough, but I won’t judge"

    Such a delightfully precise and comical stab at reality vs BS - priceless. According to El Reg I only have one thumb I can up, so hereby :)

  17. Cubical Drone

    miaow?

    Never realized that meow had a different spelling in the UK.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: miaow?

      It's cat speak for ciao.

      1. Richard Pennington 1

        Re: miaow?

        It's cat-speak for Woof.

        1. Martin
          Headmaster

          Re: miaow?

          "miaow" is a perfectly good spelling in the US as well.

          Paul Gallico wrote a book about cats called "The Silent Miaow" - not "The Silent Meow".

    2. Anonymous IV
      Joke

      Re: miaow?

      Substitute "the correct spelling" for "a different spelling", and your sentence is beyond reproach!

  18. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Brainstorm was a great idea, well acted for the most part, hampered by early 80s film-making aesthetics.

    I often wonder if the people who think the internet spawned the Rule 34 mindset ever saw it.

  19. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Why not believe it?

    It isn't incredible that someone would take their computer into the bathroom to read or watch stuff, although I gather that you're more likely to be snapped when the laptop is on your bedroom desk / dressing table. You should remember the recent case of a lunatic U.S. school that set up computers that the children used at home to do this.

    The other side of the coin obviously is finding these stolen pictures or videos being traded online, which I expect to be not difficult if they are there. On the other hand, the world also seems to be full of people voluntarily doing all sorts of things in front of webcams. Even attractive people sometimes. So these snatched screenshots and these cellphone pictures shot up ladies' skirts are pretty pointless. Just get someone to pretend to be filmed unawares while they check how much of the crumbs from those wafer cream biscuits went down their cleavage (it's amazing: I think those biscuits are mainly made from crumbs: you need a napkin or something).

    I suppose that if I was hacking someone's computer anyway to get their credit card and so forth, and tapping the audio in case they read their password aloud, and I heard them start undressing in front of the camera, I might watch. Given that we're already assuming I'm a colossal sleazebag, which in fact I'm not.

    Also, there apparently are very many cases where the naughty pictures are used to blackmail people into putting themselves in a much worse and more humiliated and abused position - including, again, alas, children, who are both sexy and gullible.

  20. Eradicate all BB entrants

    No one guessed the obvious?....

    ...... Girl has webcam session with fella, after break up it ends up on the net. To save face she responds 'oh my god the webcam was hacked'.

  21. Tom 35 Silver badge

    Not just pervs

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/10/webcam-spy-settlement/

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eww!

    That schitt is nasty.

    Having spent life without parole in IT tech support, I've seen some pretty sick stuff.

    The nastiest example was a certain laptop whose owner used it in such a way as to contaminate the fans, keyboard etc beyond hope resulting in the whole machine being returned in a bag marked "BioHazard".

    The hard drive wasn't in much better shape.

    I've since removed the webcam from my machine(s), on the basis that Skype works perfectly well without them.

    Another good method is to make a "FakeCam" (tm) that generates a picture of a random guy staring at a screen on loop, so the person on the other end thinks it is just a laggy connection :-)

  23. shawnfromnh

    Yahoo

    Back when Yahoo had first come out with their video chat program come out back in early 2000's there was a time when hackers were hacking into live streams though a bug that was fixed extremely quickly as in hours or a day of discovery. I think they were using the yahoo servers to catch the streams live if I remember right.

  24. Anonymous John

    Those cats lead boring lives.

    One of mine could have filmed himself sitting on the pavement talking to dogs being taken for walks. And sharing some cat-food I'd put down for a hungry-looking hedgehog.

  25. JaitcH
    Happy

    Simple solutions

    Buy laptops with camera covers; disable cameras and mics through the Windows system screen. As for mikes, just stick a dummy connector in thee audio i jack.

    And set up your software properly, especially Flash and Chrome.

    1. Cardinal
      WTF?

      Re: Simple solutions

      I use a bulldog paperclip to cover the lens (but not the indicator light) of my laptop webcam. Easy to put on/off and you know when it's there.

      Might sound a bit paranoid, BUT -

      A few years ago, I glanced idly at my laptop during a pause in whatever I was doing (No, thank God, it wasn't THAT) and was startled to see the camera light was glowing, but without any screen or apparent program activity - and I never used the thing!

      Never did discover what was happening, but it caused me to reinstall the whole system immediately - and dig out the bulldog clips, which I've used ever since.

      It's a VERY odd feeling to realise that maybe you're NOT alone in your living room after all!

  26. BrentRBrian

    They get what they deserve

    For every hot babe-a-bathing they will be treated to 100's that are the likes of me, a middle age, over weight, frumpy old sack.

    Let them feast their corneas on that ...

    B

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Living Space

    While I appreciate that anecdotes may frequently be false, this particular story maybe more common than Alistair Dabbs allows credit. I managed network security at a large university including a residential network for dorm rooms for five years. Since a dorm room is frequently a single room shared by two people, it is not uncommon for a web cam to be positioned to capture most of the room. Yes, very private things do occur in dorm rooms. I had to investigate three separate valid incidents where female college students had their PCs in their rooms compromised and they obtained copies of "compromising videos" from published network shares. After those experiences, I ALWAYS cover the lens on web cams when they aren't in use.

  28. Dr Lecter
    FAIL

    Usual initial left wing diatribe from Dabbs

    What a surprise, Dabbs starts an article with left wing political diatribe, once again Dabbs pushes his political agenda in an article unrelated to politics. Should I be surprised, probably not, it seems the only way he is able to start an article. It makes me wonder what happens when he goes home to his other half, does he rant on before asking how was your day, and does he do the same when meeting someone for the first time? It must make for interesting viewing at least, just watching their poor faces bemused and confused! Maybe I should just stop reading el reg. Change the record please.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Usual initial left wing diatribe from Dabbs

      He mentioned St Margaret of Thatcher all of once. Take your head for a wobble.

    2. sabroni Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Usual initial left wing diatribe from Dabbs

      I think he did a fine job of shoe horning his politics into the story, it's not like the market has morals so he's perfectly correct in his "I can make money so I don't care" comparison with Goodwin. I notice you haven't attempted to counter his point at all, you just winge about the fact he's left wing.

      If you don't like reading him, why not stop reading him? No reason to abandon the whole site though, his picture is at the top of his articles so he's easily avoided....

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