Cameras can see what you see. Microphones can hear what you hear. Special security considerations must be implemented to lock down these mobile components. Ryan Spence explains why cameras and microphones are security concerns. Understand how to secure them to protect your data and environment from malicious parties and hackers.
- The ability to create high resolution images from my smartphone is admittedly a joy. I've been able to capture more of life than I ever would have carrying around my big digital camera. Cameras are all about light and context. A camera is always available in an operating system and if someone can get access to my device, they can get access to my device's cameras. And through them they can learn an incredible amount of information about me. For example, they can see what is around me to learn where I work, shop, eat, play, and live.
If I work in a protected environment, they could learn how I access that space. They could even witness parts of my life I explicitly intend to keep private. This inappropriate use of cameras isn't just activities criminals engage in, but schools, businesses, and government agencies have all been caught exploiting the ability to access cameras without user detection. There are ways I can protect myself. On my personal phone, disabling the camera needs to be a temporary solution.
To accomplish this, I will simply place a piece of electrical tape over the camera lens. Another option is to keep my phone in a sleeve or pouch that covers the camera. This only disables the camera when I'm not using it. If my phone were to become compromised my cameras would not reveal anything. camJAMR is a good example of a product designed to provide personal safety in the case of someone prying on your cameras. You can see their product here.
Increasingly, however, businesses are taking advantage of the power of smartphones. Airlines, warehouses, and retail utilize smartphone workforces. Businesses put their operations and trade secrets at risk by introducing into their environment thousands of hackable cameras. If the cameras are not needed for the work they must accomplish, a security-minded business owner should consider a more permanent solution. In this situation, I would recommend disabling the camera from a mobile device management platform.
Another solution is to equip the devices with a case that both protects the hardware investment from damage as well as covers the cameras. Then of course, there is the issue of BYOD. When workers bring their personal devices into secure places, it can be difficult to contain the security risk. PICpatch has created a clever security option for companies. Their labels wrap around the phone to cover the camera. Once the user removes the wrap, it indicates it has been removed. Microphones present a very different, but equally destructive risk.
An accessed mic can allow the intruder to hear what is going on around the device. Many leaked recordings of private conversations over the past few years have been enabled by smartphones. While many of these attacks were accomplished by the malicious party recording with their own device, it still stands as an example of how catastrophic microphone access could be. In order to secure against microphone access, I would recommend exactly the same as with a camera. I would disable the microphone from a mobile device management platform.
It is important to note that software solutions can be hacked, so hardware solutions are generally the best way to ensure security. Currently, there are no hardware solutions for microphone security that do not involve taking the device apart, which is not a good idea. Manufacturers are developing cases that cover the microphone of the device with sound-dampening material. So hopefully a hardware solution is on the horizon. In the meantime, it's critical to take the tools available today to mitigate the camera and microphone risk.
- Understanding mobile security risks
- Buying and disposing of mobile devices
- Setting up mobile passwords
- Implementing lock screen security
- Adjusting Android admin settings and iOS privacy options
- Setting up options to find your phone
- Securing cameras, microphones, and other hardware on your mobile device