Forget Your Webcam – Should You Cover Your iPhone’s Selfie Camera?

Using Iphone X Credit: guteksk7 / Shutterstock
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Laptop webcams can be hacked and used to spy on you without your knowledge. Is the same true for the selfie camera on your smartphone?

You may already have a sticker or piece of tape over your computer’s webcam. But think about the camera on your smartphone. How often do you stare directly at your smartphone’s display in full view of the camera? And where do you take your smartphone?

If you’re feeling a bit paranoid, don’t worry. We’ll go over whether or not your iPhone’s camera can be hacked and how you can stop a potential attacker from spying on you.

Can an iPhone Be Hacked?

There’s no such thing as an unhackable device. Even if there isn’t an active vulnerability an attacker could use to hijack your webcam now, it doesn’t mean that they won’t find one down the road.

Of course, iOS devices feature extremely strong security measures and encryption. That’s why even the government has a hard time breaking into iPhones. As long as your iPhone isn’t jailbroken and your device is physically in your possession, you’re probably pretty safe.

In other words, with enough time and resources, an attacker could find a way to break into or hijack your iPhone. But this is extremely unlikely to happen to the average person. Unless you’re a spy or a high-profile figure, you shouldn’t stress about it.

The App Problem

An attacker wouldn’t need to hack your iPhone if you just give them permission to use your device’s camera. And, in fact, you probably already have.

When you first open an app like a social media platform, it’s likely that the app asked you to approve camera and microphone access. For many apps, this is necessary. But it’s also a potential privacy risk.

As developers and security researchers have proven in the past, apps that have camera permissions can use your camera when they’re open. But there does not need to be a camera interface active on the app. That means apps could potentially spy on you without your knowledge.

And unlike a MacBook, there’s no green LED indicator to let you know that an app is actively using your front- or rear-facing camera. We aren’t aware of any popular apps that exploit this method, but the fact that they could may be reason enough to be worried.

Bottom Line

At one point in time, putting a piece of tape over your webcam’s camera was considered paranoid. That wasn’t too long ago — and look where we are now.

We’re not saying you need to cover your iPhone’s selfie camera (or go full Edward Snowden and physically remove it). But if you’re particularly privacy- or security-conscious, a piece of tape over the selfie shooter certainly can’t hurt.

As far as how, you can just use electrical tape or some type of removable webcam sticker. If you’re a frequent selfie-taker, you may want to consider a slider-type mechanism like this one. Just be sure it won’t interfere with FaceID.

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