By Kim Zetter

Photo: Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

Photo: Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

You already know that laptops, desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones are all at risk of being hacked. But did you know that intruders might use the built-in camera to take surreptitious pictures and videos of you and your surroundings or hijack your microphone to eavesdrop on conversations?

The latest story from the Edward Snowden leaks yesterday drives home that the NSA and its spy partners possess specialized tools for doing exactly that. According to The Intercept, the NSA uses a plug-in called GUMFISH to take over cameras on infected machines and snap photos.

Another NSA plug-in called CAPTIVATEDAUDIENCE hijacks the microphone on targeted computers to record conversations.

Intelligence agencies have been turning computers into listening devices for at least a decade, as evidenced by the Flame spy tool uncovered by Kaspersky Lab in 2012, which had the ability to surreptitiously turn on webcams and microphones and perform a host of other espionage operations. Researchers believe Flame has been around since 2007.

But it’s not just the NSA who can hijack your webcam and mic. Cybercriminals, sextortionists, law enforcement, and even school districts have all been doing this kind of spying for a number of years.

Kim Zetter is a senior reporter at Wired covering cybercrime, privacy, security and civil liberties.

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