Most laptops with built-in cameras have an important privacy feature — a light that is supposed to turn on any time the camera is in use.But Wolf says she never saw the light on her laptop go on.
But more sophisticated remote monitoring tools may already have the capabilities to suppress the warning light, says Morgan Marquis-Boire, a security researcher at the University of Toronto.
Another researcher was able to convert the built-in Apple keyboard into spyware using a similar method.
According to the researchers, the vulnerability they discovered affects “Apple internal i Sight webcams found in earlier-generation Apple products, including the i Mac G5 and early Intel-based i Macs, Mac Books, and Mac Book Pros until roughly 2008.” While the attack outlined in the paper is limited to these devices, researchers like Charlie Miller suggest that the attack could be applicable to newer systems as well.
“People are starting to think about what happens when you can reprogram each of those,” Miller says.
For example, he demonstrated an attack last year on the software that controls Apple batteries, which causes the battery to discharge rapidly, potentially leading to a fire or explosion.