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“There’s a chip in the battery, a chip in the keyboard, a chip in the camera.” Mac Books are designed to prevent software running on the Mac Book’s central processing unit (CPU) from activating its i Sight camera without turning on the light.But researchers figured out how to reprogram the chip inside the camera, known as a micro-controller, to defeat this security feature.The 2008-era Apple products they studied had a “hardware interlock” between the camera and the light to ensure that the camera couldn’t turn on without alerting its owner.But Checkoway and his co-author, Johns Hopkins graduate student Matthew Brocker, were able to get around this security feature.
But more sophisticated remote monitoring tools may already have the capabilities to suppress the warning light, says Morgan Marquis-Boire, a security researcher at the University of Toronto.
Fortunately, the FBI was able to identify a suspect: her high school classmate, a man named Jared Abrahams. W., later identified herself on Twitter as Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf.
The FBI says it found software on Abrahams’s computer that allowed him to spy remotely on her and numerous other women. While her case was instant fodder for celebrity gossip sites, it left a serious issue unresolved.
RATted out The software used by Abrahams in the Wolf case is known as a Remote Administration Tool, or RAT.
This software, which allows someone to control a computer from across the Internet, has legitimate purposes as well as nefarious ones.
In a paper called “i See You: Disabling the Mac Book Webcam Indicator LED,” Brocker and Checkoway describe how to reprogram the i Sight camera’s micro-controller to allow the camera and light to be activated independently.