With technology zooming ahead at lightning speed, it’s not just about the latest apps or gadgets. Sometimes, it’s the sneaky pop-ups and unsolicited messages that catch us off-guard.
While we’re busy marveling at new innovations, an underbelly of crafty tactics lurks in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to spring a surprise. Just ask Shelley from Salisbury, Maryland, who stumbled upon a digital curveball on an otherwise typical day. Here’s what she’s saying in a note sent online:
“I had a message from Norton saying that, once again, we should buy more security from them. Apparently, they think we should be paying more than $700 a year for virus protection on our computer! When I clicked through the settings, I found that Webcam access had just been attempted by Norton! And it was allowed! I then scrolled through the list and found that the Webcam had allowed Microsoft Edge access! I have never allowed this! I took a screenshot of one of the pages and I quickly took pictures from my phone before I lost the info. – Shelley, Salisbury, Maryland”
This sounds like it could have been a phishing attempt where a scammer tries to use an email to trick you into clicking on a link or attachment. Here are some signs that the email you received was not actually from Norton.
- The message contained an exorbitant price (or may claim that you were charged an exorbitant price) that immediately makes you want to click it to look into why you were charged so much.
- The message had a generic greeting, spelling or grammar errors, or an urgent tone.
- The message included a link or an attachment that you were not expecting or did not recognize.
- The message claimed that there was a problem with your account or your payment information and asked you to confirm or update it.
If Shelley clicked on a link or attachment in the email she received, she might have unknowingly downloaded malware onto her computer or device. This could explain why she suspected Norton and Microsoft Edge had tried to access her webcam without her permission.
The inbox intrigue
All it takes is one email to send us into a tailspin. I would be upset too if I were Shelley. She was confronted by a situation that would send shivers down anyone’s spine. Without her knowing, as she mentioned, her computer’s settings indicated that her webcam had not only allowed access to this so-called Norton entity but, astonishingly, to Microsoft Edge as well.
Unrestricted webcam access and the looming threat to personal privacy
Such unrestricted access paints a terrifying picture. When unsolicited entities gain entry to a webcam, it’s akin to an uninvited guest peering into your personal life. Every conversation and every document can potentially be monitored. And with Microsoft Edge? That means browsing history, saved passwords, and personal data could be at risk.
Imagine the implications: online banking details, intimate conversations, private documents, and purchase histories – a gold mine for those with malicious intent. The digital footprint you leave while navigating the web could be exploited, leading to identity theft, fraudulent activities, or worse.
Responding to a breach
If you ever find that someone has accessed your webcam or browser without your permission here’s what to do:
Immediate disconnection: Disconnect from the internet immediately. This will halt any ongoing data transmission.
Run a full system scan: Use your antivirus software to run a full system scan to identify and remove any malicious software.
Change passwords: After ensuring your system is clean, update all passwords. Consider using a password manager to generate and store complex passwords.
Report the incident to the company: I recommend Shelley contact Norton’s customer support through their official website or by calling them on their phone number, which can be found on their website, and report the incident. They can help her verify her account status and security settings. Never respond to the email that you receive, especially if you think it’s a scam.
Monitor your accounts: For the next few months, keep an extra close eye on bank accounts, credit reports, and other sensitive information for signs of unauthorized activity.
Use identity theft protection: Identity Theft protection companies can monitor personal information like your home title, Social Security Number (SSN), phone number, and email address and alert you if it is being sold on the dark web or being used to open an account. They can also assist you in freezing your bank and credit card accounts to prevent further unauthorized use by criminals. See my tips and best picks on how to protect yourself from identity theft.
Navigating the treacherous terrain
Technology can be a maze where pathways aren’t always as clear-cut as we’d like them to be. Sometimes they’re laden with traps. Here’s how to navigate the treacherous terrain.
Stay vigilant: First and foremost, always approach unexpected emails, especially those soliciting money or offering too-good-to-be-true deals, with skepticism. If something feels off, trust that instinct. It’s better to delete an email than to risk compromising your device.
Update regularly: Ensuring your software, including your operating system and browser, is up to date is one of the most straightforward ways to stay protected. Cyber attackers often exploit vulnerabilities in outdated software. By updating, you patch these potential weak points.
Cover that cam: As basic as it sounds, a simple cover over your webcam can prevent unwanted onlookers. You can purchase small sliding webcam covers, or if in a pinch, a piece of opaque tape works.
Have good antivirus software on all your devices: The best way to protect yourself from having your data breached is to have antivirus protection installed on all your devices. Having good antivirus software actively running on your devices will alert you of any malware in your system, warn you against clicking on any malicious links in phishing emails and ultimately protect you from being hacked. See my expert review of the best antivirus protection for your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.
Have strong passwords and use 2-factor authentication: Using the same password across multiple platforms will always make you more vulnerable because if one account gets hacked, they all have the potential of getting hacked. And two-factor authentication is just an extra shield that will prevent a hacker from getting into your accounts. Make sure to use a password manager to keep track of all your passwords.
Be wary of permissions: Always be aware of which applications have access to your computer’s hardware. Regularly checking and pruning these permissions can ensure no unwanted apps are snooping. If you didn’t give an app permission to access your webcam or microphone, it shouldn’t have it.
Regularly clear browsing data: This might seem like a chore, but it’s a good habit. Periodically clearing your cookies, cached data, and browsing history makes it harder for malicious parties to track your online movements or exploit saved data.
Use a VPN: Consider using a VPN to protect against hackers snooping on your device as well. VPNs will protect you from those who want to track and identify your potential location and the websites that you visit. See my expert review of the best VPNs for browsing the web privately on your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.
Kurt’s key takeaways
With all the online conveniences and tools we have today, there’s a flip side. Like in the real world, the online space has its share of pickpockets and pranksters. But armed with a bit of know-how, we can sidestep those sneaky traps and keep enjoying the web the way it’s meant to be.
What about you? Have you ever bumped into something sketchy online or have a nifty trick to keep the baddies at bay? Let us know by writing us at Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact
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