How to Block Your MacBook’s Webcam Without Using an External Cover

How to Block Your MacBook’s Webcam Without Using an External Cover

Covering your webcam is one of the oldest privacy tips around, but some MacBook owners have made the unfortunate discovery that third-party camera covers can damage your laptop when you try to shut it. Many of these coverings are bulky enough that a MacBook can’t close all the way, and the excess pressure they put on the screen can crack it.

To Apple’s credit, it warns users against using physical coverings and suggests they look to see if their MacBook’s green webcam light is on, instead. Modern MacBooks are wired so that the webcam cannot be powered on when the light is turned off, which Apple seems to think is a suitable alternative to camera covers that can damage the screen and prevent camera-dependent features like automatically adjusting brightness from working.

While we wouldn’t recommend a hard cover for your MacBook’s camera, there are plenty of other physical and software-based solutions that can block or obscure your webcam — just in case a savvy hacker finds a loophole in the machine’s wiring.

OverSight

OverSight is a free MacOS app that monitors camera and mic activity to help you better understand when either is being used by something on your system. The app can also keep you safe even when you’re intentionally using your camera or mic by alerting you to recording processes or background snooping.

To get started, download OverSight here, and follow the instructions on the page to install and configure the app. The page also includes guides for using OverSight’s various features, explanations of how the app works and an FAQ. Take some time to read through all the information — especially if you’re sceptical about using a third-party app that accesses your webcam and mic. OverSight’s developers are transparent about how the app works and what it does with the data it monitors.

DIY covers

For those who want an external solution, let me introduce you to the world’s most successful webcam-obscuring tool: tape. Apple is right to caution against webcam covering accessories, but trust me, there’s plenty of room for a piece of tape, paper or a sticky note even when the display is closed. (You can always remove it before closing the screen, if you’re paranoid.)

There are countless options out there for tape and/or paper-based covers. You just need to be sure that whatever you choose is opaque enough to block your camera. Otherwise, as long as it’s sticky enough to stay in place (though not so sticky it can’t be removed without damaging the device) and you can close your display with it on, you can customise it to your liking.

Lifehacker’s very own Beth Skwarecki suggests using Washi Tape, which comes in a multitude of colourful, geometric designs (just stay away from the bulky ones with beads or raised surfaces). Gaffers tape also works well, both for its stickiness and ease of removal. Sure, tape adhesive eventually wears out, but you can always keep a roll nearby or in your computer bag if it needs replacing.

Personally, I would suggest a multi-pronged approach that combines the software-level security of OverSight with the tried-and-true tape method. The tape will block the camera when not in use and is thin enough that you can still safely close your laptop, and the extra layer of security from OverSight makes removing the tape to use the camera or enable features like True Tone less of a risk.

But what about you? Let us know how you keep your webcam secure in the comments.

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