FBI Director James Comey urges Americans to cover up their laptop webcam 'for their own safety'
Mark Zuckerberg created a stir a few months ago when a widely distributed photo of him showed a piece of tape covering the webcam on his laptop. On Wednesday FBI Director James Comey not only backed the Facebook founder's DIY security measure, he said everyone should be doing it.
"You go into any government office and we all have the little camera things that sit on top of the screen," Comey said at a security and international affairs conference. "They all have a little lid that closes down on them. You do that so that people who don't have authority don't look at you. I think that's a good thing."
Hackers don't have to be especially sophisticated to use a computer's webcam to watch and record everything a user is doing. Such spying can lead to blackmail, identity theft and other crimes.
The Hill newspaper on Thursday wrote that some internet privacy advocates found this recommendation from Comey "ironic," seeing as the FBI this year "launched a high-profile battle against Apple to gain access to data locked inside of the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorists. Many viewed that fight as a referendum on digital privacy."
But there's really nothing ironic about it. Comey, as much as just about anyone, knows how vulnerable people are. "It's not crazy that the FBI director cares about personal security," he said. "I think people ought to take responsibility for their own safety and security."
He likened covering up the webcam on your laptop to locking your car doors and turning on a security system when you go to bed at night.
Comey first acknowledged that he covered up the webcam on his computer earlier this year. "I saw something in the news, so I copied it," he said then. "I put a piece of tape -- I have obviously a laptop, personal laptop -- I put a piece of tape over the camera. Because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their camera."