Slate takes a look at the new Veronica Mars movie (warning: the article contains spoilers about the film) and discusses how savvy the film is about technology, specifically how webcams can be hacked and video recorded and sent to others without the knowledge of the computer or tablet owner. The article references the 2010 case in Pennsylvania where a family filed suit accusing the Lower Merion School District of misusing the 2,300 Webcam-enabled laptops it issued to students in order to remotely peep into the students’ homes, take photographs and violate their privacy. Slate reports:
In the same way that malware can control your computer, delete your files, and track your keystrokes, mistakenly installed virulent software can just as easily control your webcam. Here’s the tale of a 14-year-old doing it. And a 19-year-old. You may think your webcam is only looking at you when its LED light is on, but that can be bypassed, too. […]
For those would-be victims who knew where to look, the corrupted devices would show some indications of the hack. The bandwidth required to upload the video would slow down the network; the space required to capture so much video might need additional flash memory; the battery would definitely drain much faster. […]
While distributing the devices makes it absurdly easy to spy on their recipients, pristine devices are still quite hackable, contrary to what Mac implies [in the movie]. The New York Times reported in 2011 that German authorities were using people’s webcams against them.