HOUSTON -- You may be rushing to your computer after you read this. That’s because right now, when you think you’re alone, or with your family, someone else could be watching you.
We’re talking about ‘techie peeping toms.’
“I am very scared,” said a woman who did not want to be identified. “I loved this person very much and never expected anything like this to happen.”
This woman believes her ex-boyfriend has been watching her, not in person, but rather on-line through the camera on her laptop computer. She says it’s been happening for months without her knowledge.
“I had suspected it because he would say things that I thought, ‘well, how does he know that,’” she said.
And this woman is part of a growing world-wide trend. It’s a trend in which peeping toms use the webcam on your computer to hack their way invading your most private moments.
Cyber-expert Gary Huestis, who is the Director of Digital Forensics with E-Investigations, says it’s becoming more and more common. He’s seen more cases of people installing software on someone else’s computer, either through the internet or in person, that then allows them to remotely turn on the computer’s camera and microphone.
Huestis gave the KHOU 11 News I-Team a demonstration.
“This program in particular can be hidden so there are no icons, no trace on this computer that this program is on the computer, said Huestis.
Then he clearly showed that he had control of our computer: Whatever he typed on his own laptop, would also show up on the screen of our computer.
So what did he write?
“I am connected to your computer remotely.”
And that meant he could also turn on my computer’s camera, which he did, with my image now appearing on his computer.
KHOU 11 News: “You are watching me on your computer?”
KHOU 11 News: “And some people may never know this?”
Huestis: “Correct. Jealous girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife can use it to kind of spy on the other.”
And the KHOU 11 News I-Team found it’s often done by someone the victim doesn’t know.
For instance, in Florida a man is accused of taking more than 20,000 photos, some of them nude, of dozens of Gainesville co-eds using their webcams.
And thanks to the Internet, you can be peeped on from another country, like Germany, where police found a man who had hacked into the computers of hundreds of women all over the world. He recorded them as they were clothed and unclothed.
And guess what. Huestis showed us a ‘high-tech pervert’ can keep tabs on you no matter where he goes.
By taking along his smart phone.
KHOU 11 News: “So what you’re telling me is not only can you see me on your computer, but also you can see me on your phone? “
And if YOU go out and away from your computer, Huestis says as long as you take your own smart phone with you, he or anyone else can continue watching you by turning on the camera in your phone.
“Tablets, iPhones, Andriod type phones, almost all cell phones now have cameras,” Huestis told KHOU 11 News.
And that’s left some victims with one choice.
“It’s cut me off. All of my communications have been cut off,” said the woman who doesn’t want to be identified.
KHOU 11 News: “So you’re scared to use a phone, a computer?”
Unidentified Woman: “Yes.”
KHOU 11 News: “A cell phone?”
Unidentified Woman: “I don’t have any in my home anymore.”
KHOU 11 New: “You got rid of them?”
Unidentified Woman: “Everything.”
But is there a less extreme way to protect yourself?
Well, many people just put a post-it note over the camera at the top of their computer.
Or for a few dollars you can actually buy a lens cover that slides over it. But there’s also another way: It turns out you can set your computer so that a hacker can’t turn your camera on.