These days everyone has a laptop. This means that pretty much everyone has a webcam with a built in microphone. For the most part, this is a great thing as it means more and more people can now participate in video or audio chats online.
Still, as cool as it is to get this technology into more and more hands, it comes at a price. More and more malware attacks are targeting users’ webcams in an effort to steal information about them – credit card information, personal details, etc., anything they can use to gain access to closely guarded accounts.
For the most part this malware has been happening to Mac and Windows users. Linux users need not be so worried – or should they? As Linux (and Ubuntu) gets more popular, more malware will start targeting it, so it’s important that we take these threats seriously, too, and learn how to disable the webcam on Linux. But how is it done?
Disabling the microphone
The best way to disable the microphone on the webcam is to permanently mute it. This way if the user ever needs to use it again, it’s not a complicated process to get going. To start, open the Software Center, search for “gnome alsa mixer” and install the sound mixer control panel.
Alternatively, from the terminal use the following command to install it:
sudo apt install gnome-alsamixer
From here, open the unity dash, search for “gnome alsa mixer” and launch it. Any audio device can be managed with the Gnome ALSA Mixer – volume control or muting it altogether.
Using the mouse, navigate to the volume bar labeled “mic” (or whatever the internal/external webcam mic is listed as on the system).
In Gnome ALSA Mixer, use the mouse to turn the volume mixer all the way down, select the “mute” box and uncheck the “Rec” box.
The Gnome ALSA Mixer will keep these changes forever unless the user manually re-opens the program to unmute it.
Disabling the webcam
Want to make the webcam on your laptop unusable? To do so, the user must blacklist the webcam driver. Doing this is a tedious but rewarding process, and it starts by opening up a terminal window and entering the following:
sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf
Then, add this line to the file. This will ensure that the
uvcvideo driver doesn’t load on boot next time.
To temporarily disable the webcam on the system (but not permanently) till the next reboot, enter the following command into the terminal:
sudo modprobe -r uvcvideo
Disabling the drivers for a webcam on an Ubuntu laptop is a quick fix, but it will get the job done. It’ll ease most users’ fears that eavesdropping isn’t happening. Though, if you are really that worried about malware getting hold of your Ubuntu laptop, a better fix may be to just take some black tape and place it directly over the webcam and microphone. No amount of malware is going to be able to see or hear through black tape.
Do you disable your webcam on your Laptop? Tell us below!
Image credit: Magic Madzik