(WFLX) - Are you a fan of Skype, Google video chats, video instant messaging or do you simply own a laptop? Many of us do these days after all.
You could be at risk as someone may be watching you, and you may not have a clue!
It's estimated 170-million people use laptop computers worldwide. These days, the majority of those laptops have built in Web cameras.
You may have never used yours, but odds are it's there. "You don't even have to look for it as a special feature anymore. It just comes with the computer," said Dan Ackerman, CNET.
"With the Web cam comes the opportunity for people to use malicious software to control the Web cam," explained Justin Vellese, FBI.
You use your laptop everywhere -- from your hotel room on vacation to your bed while working late at night. "Many laptops now have 3G or wireless capabilities built into them, so, being portable, they can be used anywhere and can be put in places that are private -- places that people might not want to be seen," explained Vellese.
Now, imagine someone tapping into that Web camera to watch you. "There is malicious software that can turn on the Web cam, turn it off," Vellese warned. "It's possible they can even turn off the light that indicates the Web cam is on."
With the light off, you have no idea someone is watching. It's happening everywhere. All over the world, and it's a crime that is growing according to the FBI. "It can grow exponentially, given the fact that this malware is readily available on the Internet to somebody with a limited amount of education. They don't have to be a computer programmer."
A quick search on Google will reveal all kinds of information for criminals looking to hack a Web cam. And not just your computer's cam, but any Web cam -- from security cameras to daycare cams. There are YouTube videos that give step-by-step insturctions on how to do this.
So what can you do? "Make sure your firewall is turned on at all times, and you have your anti-virus, anti-malware apps running constantly," Ackerman said.
A simple solution could also help. "If you're not using the camera, you can either disable it by simply putting a Post-it over it, or if it's plugged in via USB, unplugging it," explained Vellese.
The FBI considers the crime "cyber terrorism".
If it happens to you, they advise getting help fast because odds are you are not the only victim. "It's important to be able to reach out to law enforcement," Vellese concluded.
The FBI says young women are the most targetted for this kind of crime. Parents are advised to keep computers in open areas of the home and have a conversation with their children about what they should do if someone contacts them saying they've been watching.