End the Lie

NSA recommends physically removing iSight webcam from Apple laptops for security reasons

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By End the Lie

(Image credit: studiocurve/Flickr)

(Image credit: studiocurve/Flickr)

In an undated National Security Agency (NSA) factsheet, the agency recommends having the built-in iSight webcam on Apple computers physically removed as a security measure.

It is worth noting that surveillance software capable of hijacking a webcam and microphone in real time is marketed directly to governments, including the U.S. government.

Furthermore, the FBI has reportedly hired hackers to create malware capable of similarly hijacking a laptop microphone and the U.S. government is now the largest buyer of malware in the world.

Interestingly, an NSA factsheet on hardening techniques for Mac OS X includes going as far as having the iSight camera physically removed from a device.

“The best way to disable an integrated iSight camera is to have an Apple-certified technician remove it,” the factsheet states.

The Atlantic points out that “if the NSA doesn’t trust a particular piece of hardware can’t be used for surveillance, it’s probably safe to assume an average user shouldn’t either.”

“Placing opaque tape over the camera is less secure but still helpful,” the factsheet continues.

It also states that users can remove /System/Library/Quicktime/QuicktimeUSBVDCDigitizer.component in order to block some programs from accessing the camera, though they say that such a method is “less persistent but still helpful.”

The factsheet also outlines how to disable the microphone without having it physically removed.

“To mute the internal microphone, open the Sound preference pane, select the Input tab, and set the microphone input volume level to zero,” it states.

“To disable the microphone, even if it means crippling the sound system, remove the following file from /System/Library/Extensions: IOAudioFamily.kext,” the factsheet states.

The NSA has many publicly available factsheets covering similar topics.

The Atlantic points out that these guides – aimed at protecting employees, contractors and associates – can also be used “to protect yourself from hackers — inside or outside the government.”

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4 Responses to NSA recommends physically removing iSight webcam from Apple laptops for security reasons

  1. Anonymous August 20, 2013 at 9:43 PM

    tape over the camera and plug in an old earpiece into the 1/8 mic jack and cut the cord. done.

  2. Mike February 28, 2014 at 8:15 PM


    Which document describes these instructions and is there a link to it?

    Thanks in advance,

  3. Elias October 13, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    What’s up it’s me, I am also visiting this website regularly,
    this website is really good and the viewers are in fact sharing nice

  4. Phred May 6, 2015 at 4:14 PM

    The above instructions do not work on Yosemite. I renamed and moved the file. The camera can still be accessed.


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