FBI Can Secretly and Remotely Activate Built-In Laptop Cameras

The National Security Agency (NSA) has no monopoly on the use of intrusivesurveillance tools to keep us all under the watchful eye of government.

The Washington Post reports that an elite team of hackers employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have developed an application that turns on built-in laptop cameras. According to details provided in the story, the software can be turned on remotely by the g-men and perhaps most notably, the little green light that typically signals a “live” camera is not illuminated when this application is in use.

In documents describing tactics uses by the FBI to track an elusive suspected terrorist threat named “Mo,” a short history of the program is revealed.

The FBI has been able to covertly activate a computer’s camera – without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording – for several years, and has used that technique mainly in terrorism cases or the most serious criminal investigations, said Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI‘s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, now on the advisory board of Subsentio, a firm that helps telecommunications carriers comply with federal wiretap statutes.

Virtual hideouts are becoming increasingly rare as the federal government’s hired hackers create increasingly sophisticated and surreptitious software, all with the aim of stretching the size of the surveillance net.

The FBI‘s technology continues to advance as users move away from traditional computers and become more savvy about disguising their locations and identities. “Because of encryption and because targets are increasingly using mobile devices, law enforcement is realizing that more and more they’re going to have to be on the device – or in the cloud,” Thomas said, referring to remote storage services. “There’s the realization out there that they’re going to have to use these types of tools more and more.”

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