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Pastors & Counselors: Is Your Office Cyber-Secure?

webcamIn my recent post “SMILE! You’re on Candid (Web) Camera” I talked about the dangers posed by remote activation of web cameras.

This should be of great concern for clergy and mental health professionals who counsel others in their offices.  Frequently there is a computer in the room.  If it is an iMac (or similar all-in-one) or a laptop, then there is a good chance that there is a webcam in the room…and a microphone.

This presents a vulnerability to your confidentiality.  It is not beyond the realm of possibility that your computer camera and/or microphone can be remotely activated.  This could lead to the compromise of a parishioner’s or client’s privacy.

In fact, the technologies for remote control/access is widely available.  The privacy and security issues these technologies raise is drawing the attention of Congress and other Government entities as can be seen in this article:

“Specter calls Senate hearing on Web cam issues”

That’s fine, for those concerned with staying “legal”, but it does not mean that those with criminal/evil intent will be stopped by the rule of law, especially since the “attacker” could be on the other side of the planet.

The vary nature of the remote exploitation of the system mitigates against relying on a software solution.  Until some enterprising entrepreneur creates a simple “widget” to address these issue I recommend the following:

  1. Cameras should be covered.  This is easily done by creating a “shutter” that is comprised of a piece of an index card taped so as to cover the lens.  DO NOT put tape directly over the lens as it can ruin it.  Apply the tape so you can flip the card up/down, allowing you to use your camera when needed.
  2. Built-in microphones should be covered by taping a small, thin piece of foam over it. This should sufficiently muffle the sound.
  3. External webcams should remain unplugged and put away when not in use.
  4. Other microphones/headsets should be unplugged as well.
  5. Anti-virus and anti-spyware software should be continuously updated and employed.  Daily scans are strongly recommended! (Schedule them for the hours between midnight and 0500 to avoid impacting the work day.)

It is not beyond the realm of possibility for a person who is aware of your treatment/counseling of another individual to target your computer to gain information by employing a hacker to infect it.  Let’s face it, marital problems and divorces can get nasty. This should also make financial planners and lawyers nervous, as well.

Or, someone could be “fishing” your office for information that could be used against ANYONE.  Blackmail is a possibility


To a degree.  In today’s world of global connected-ness and identity theft a little paranoia is not a bad thing.  The risk may seem small, but it does exist, and it is growing.  The consequences could be serious to your professional work, and could lead to tragic consequences for your client/parishioner.

Just as little as five years ago, would we have worried about remote webcam activation?

  • What do we have to worry about five years from now?
  • Should we react, or prepare?

You counsel in private, physically.

How are you going to protect your office electronically?

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