How to Secure Your Webcam From Hackers?

Search one of these strings in Google. Chances are that you will find the live feed of an unsecured webcam.

inurl:/view.shtml
inurl:ViewerFrame?Mode=
inurl:ViewerFrame?Mode=Refresh
inurl:axis-cgi/jpg
inurl:axis-cgi/mjpg (motion-JPEG)
intitle:”Live View / - AXIS” | inurl:view/view.shtml^

A webcam, your webcam, may be secured unlike any of the public ones you may find. However, there are hackers out there who can easily get access to your webcam and feed it to the world. It is not at all difficult for them. With a bit of code, hackers can access any piece of hardware on your computer, and a webcam is no different.

How serious are the consequences of exposing your webcam? Well, if you have children at home and you want to protect their privacy, you cannot be serious enough about this. Your webcam should be yours and you should have complete control over it. There was a recent investigation by BBC, about a Finnish hacker who hacks and sells people’s webcams for money. Here is the webcast.

The impact of this is heavy on all of us. These webcam feeds could easily be sold to online porn sites or to people who are into sick stuff. It is the privacy of people like you and we that is at stake. Hence, I have compiled this article to let you know how to secure your webcam from external threats.

Here’s another video from BBC, showing exactly how easy it is to hack into webcams of old, infrequently updated computers:

Get Adobe Flash player

Pretty disturbing, ain’t it?

How to Secure Your Webcam?

Hackers will always try to find out your webcam and get control over it. You may not quite realize whether your webcam is in use or not. Most of the webcams come with the indicator LED that turns red or green or something when it is engaged. This should be known to you as the user. Here are the most important steps to do if you suspect your webcam could be under attack.

1. Update Your Software

Some computer technologies, such as Java, Flash, etc., can be used to directly control your webcam, and on most of these technologies, you need to provide permission to access your webcam. However, there are ways in which a hacker can work his way around this permission-giving. They can dupe unsuspecting users into giving permission through click-jacking or similar methods.

Updating your software is one of the most important things to do to stay secure. You may remember the recent security attack on Java, and the subsequent alarm. Old computers are extremely vulnerable and could in essence become part of botnets.

2. Use Security Software

We have recently covered some of the best and worst security apps for Android. You should check them out. For a regular PC, use something like Kaspersky, Norton, Trend Micro Titanium, or Bitdefender. I would personally recommend Norton and Kaspersky for antivirus and firewall. You also need an antimalware solution, and Malwarebytes is the best one for that. They have a free edition that you can run alongside your antivirus and firewall. As an additional thing, keep your security software updated all the time, just as you do with regular software.

3. Be Suspicious About Web Apps

You may come across a huge number of web apps on a day of browsing. You may cruise through the bad neighborhoods of the Net; you may come across websites and forums that follow unethical practices. You may be asked to run specific programs or apps that promise various things, such as a free virus scan, registry cleaning, computer protection, etc. These are possible click-jacking methods to make you install a malicious piece of software on your computer.

Make it a point to scan every file you download from the Web, and make sure you don’t open suspicious attachments even if they come from your friend. In short, do not execute a program or a script without verifying its source and scanning it with your antivirus program. Also, be suspicious about the people who promise technical help through the Internet. You may be asked to accept a remote connection or a screen sharing option. Do not give permission to these setups unless you are sure.

4. Wireless Security

If you are using wireless router at home for a Wi-Fi setup, please enable proper security on the router. If you are using Wi-Fi from a public hotspot, you should be wary of your situation. Use a solution like Wifisugar to protect your computer from public hotspot hackers.

In Conclusion

These are some of the most basic things to do to secure your webcam. However, two of the most important that you definitely have to do and are in your control are: first, not placing the webcam in a private place like your bedroom; and second, covering your webcam with something like a strip of electrical tape or disconnecting it from the computer altogether when you are not using it.

Another important thing that I would like most of the readers to consider is getting some information about how hackers work and what technologies and software you use are vulnerable to attacks. This information will keep your computer secure from every threat.

Acer Aspire R7: Is It a Great Tablet PC to Buy In the Current Market?

In the last few hours, I was engrossed in all kinds of thoughts and skepticisms about the latest tablet PC from Acer, Aspire R7. The tablet computer runs Windows 8 and comes with what most people call a ‘weird design’. However, is that really the case? How good or bad this new product really is? Let’s find out through this article.

The First Impressions on the Design

 

I looked through almost all of the first look reviews I could lay my hands on. Most of them talk about one most important aspect of this tablet PC—its design. Acer Aspire R7 as you can see here in this image is a weirdly designed tablet PC. It is neither a tablet, nor a laptop, nor a PC. Still, it works as all of them. R7 comes with an aluminum unibody design that has a hinge known as ‘Ezel hinge’.

With the help of the hinge, this computer can take four different shapes, you know kind of like Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga. Aspire R7 has one of the best design innovations that we got to see in Windows 8 computers. The four different modes of R7 are shown here—laptop mode, Ezel mode, pad mode, and display mode.

Laptop mode of R7

 

R7 in Ezel mode

 

R7 in pad mode

 

Display mode of R7

 

With the laptop mode, it is no different from another laptop, such as your Apple MacBook Pro. It is slightly lighter than MacBook Pro though. It can be carried around just like any other tablet PC, and not a regular tablet. R7 is definitely heavier than any tablet out there, and with more powerful parts you can’t expect it to be light as well.

The Ezel hinge takes the computer to a mode in which the display comes closer to the keypad, making it look sort of like your Surface tablet. At this time, it is easy to use both the keypad and the touch screen. Many reviewers are worried that it doesn’t provide enough space to rest the hands while typing. Let me ask you, would you rather have it with unnecessary hand-rest region to make it bulkier and unappealing? If not, just understand this is indeed the correct design.

In the display mode, you can turn the screen around and show what you are working on to the person facing you. This is perfect for working professionals as well as people having coffee together.

Ezel hinge

 

Another important aspect of the design is the placement of the track pad. It is assumed widely that the track pad should be placed below the keypad, and that is the custom followed on most of the laptops and notebooks out there. Acer on the other hand has decided to go differently here, and with good reason. The track pad is right above the keypad and you have access to it only in the laptop mode. If you are in the Ezel mode or tablet mode, forget about the track pad.

placement of track pad on R7

 

Although people say this is a weird placement for the track pad, there is no reason why this is not logical. On a tablet computer, how often do you use the track pad anyway?

In essence, I believe there is no ground to the general criticism and skepticism toward this particular design. Some people mix it with genuine concern, while most of our reviewers have learnt to mix skepticism in anything they review.

Here is a video that gives a neat first look at R7, thanks to Forbes.com:

The Technical Specifications

 

Let’s analyze the technical aspects of Aspire R7.

Feature Value
Display 15.6 inches; Full HD 1926×1080 px; 178 degree viewing angle
Processor Intel Core i5 1.8 GHz Turbo Boost up to 2.8 GHz
RAM 6 GB
Storage 500 GB SATA + 24 GB SSD
Graphics Integrated Intel HD 4000
Sound Digital Dolby with 8-watt speakers
Ports & Other Features 3 USB 3.0; HDMI; Micro SD slot; BlueTooth; Convertor port for Ethernet, VGA, or USB; Wireless receiver; Kensington lock port
Dimensions Height 37.6 cm (14.83 inch)
Width 25.45 cm (10.02 in)
Depth 2-2.84 cm   (0.81-1.12 in)
Weight 2.4 kg (5.29 lb)

 

We have not yet got the full technical specs of the computer. It is clear that with Core i5 processor and 6 GB RAM, the computer is well in place to take advantage of the high end software programs out there. It is pretty much a severe competitor to other mid-range laptops like MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

R7 in Tablet Mode

 

When you place Aspire R7 in tablet mode, you are essentially making it into sort of a folded magazine style, which was first introduced by Sony through its older tablets. That design did not quite catch on.

On the other hand, Aspire R7 with the Ezel hinge cannot fully sit on top of the keypad to make it into a perfect tablet. The important thing is it is not required to do that to look and feel aesthetic to most people. The computer still works perfectly and is quite apt in that position to work on as a tablet.

Moving R7 into tablet mode

 

In the tablet mode, you get to work with one of the largest touch screens out there. As expected, Windows 8, a powerful desktop operating system, has made its mark in the PC world, and it has caused design innovation from a number of OEMs out there. Acer is one among them. Dell, Lenovo, HP, Samsung, Toshiba, etc., have come up with their own Windows 8 devices with different design patterns. Microsoft itself has manufactured its own product, Surface Pro, which is an amazing tablet PC.

Acer R7 Price and Availability

 

As per the latest news, the price is expected to be 999 USD, and R7 will ship to the US market by . Pre-order from Acer or Best Buy.

This tablet PC is priced lower than your MacBook Air, and it has better configuration than MacBook Air, which starts at 999 dollars. Also, R7 has the touch screen, not available with Apple laptops. In general, it is a better product than other major tablets and mid-range laptops in the market.

Conclusion

 

I have always believed in designs that are inspired from our own body language. How we interact with the objects of our world should be used to design virtual user interfaces that will in turn be successful. This is the reason why touch screen gestures and voice commands have become popular. Voice is one of the most sought after input methods despite prevailing inaccuracies in recording and deciphering a command.

In the case of R7, the hinge design is quite different from the other products in the market (some of which were mentioned in the article we published earlier linked above), and this is one of the most innovative designs that I have got to see in the recent times. Hence, our recommendation for this product is a strong pro. We know we love it, and so we suppose you will too.

Aspire pre-order is available already at Acer store or Best Buy.

[Image: DigitalTrends; Engadget; Gizmodo; CNET]

Whether-or-Not-to-Buy: Google Chromebook Pixel

Here we are back with the whether-or-not-to-buy series. Today’s topic is Google’s new Chromebook Pixel. This is the first ever touch-enabled Chromebook. We have already looked at Samsung’s Google Chromebooks. Google’s Chromebook Pixel is the latest addition to the Chromebook line. We will check out the details of it here.

Tech Specs

Google Chromebook Pixel has some awesome technical features. We have a comparison here with another Chromebook, Samsung Chromebook 550.

Feature Google Chromebook Pixel Samsung Chromebook 550 Notes
Display 12.85 inch 2560×1700 px at 239 ppi (multi-touch) protected with Gorilla Glass 12.1 inch (1280×800) Chromebook has better than Retina display (Apple MacBook Pro with Retina is 227 ppi)
Processor Intel Core i5 3427U dual-core 1.8 GHz Dual-core Intel Celeron 1.3 GHz
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Intel HD 4000
RAM 4 GB DDR3 4 GB DDR3 Very large in terms of Chrome standards
Storage 32 GB (64 GB for LTE device) 16 GB
Cloud account 1 TB for three years 100 GB for two years
Battery 59 Wh (5 hrs) Over 6 hrs
Other features Anodized aluminum body (as in MacBook)
720p HD camera
Backlit keyboard

 

The Design of Chromebook Pixel

 

design of Chromebook Pixel

Chromebook Pixel is one of the best-looking laptops in the market today. It has those Google colors at the back and is built with anodized aluminum.

Anodized aluminum body of Chromebook Pixel

On the left side, you have the ports—two USB 2.0, mini DisplayPort, SD card reader, etc.

Chromebook pixel side ports

The keyboard is backlit, so you can use it comfortably in darkness.

Chromebook Pixel backlit keyboard

Most importantly, the laptop is touch-capable. You could say it is an advanced kind of tablet.

Touch capability on Chromebook Pixel

The technical specifications of the Chromebook Pixel do not awe in many respects. The display is one aspect in which the laptop wins. While 16:9 has been taken up as the prime aspect ratio among most of the devices, Chromebook Pixel comes with 3:2 aspect ratio, which is equivalent to 15:10. But the PPI ratio is the most important aspect of the laptop. It is high, even higher than the MacBook Pro with 227 ppi. However, you should note the fact that MacBook Pro is 13.3 inches, while Chromebook Pixel is 12.85 pixels. As per viewing distance reasoning, both these displays may be identical in clarity.

Performance

The performance of this laptop should not be a problem at all due to the presence of the third generation Intel Core i5 processor, which can turbo-boost up to 3 GHz. We went ahead and obtained a comparison between competing processors—Celeron 867 on Chromebook 550, Core i5-3210M on MacBook Pro, and Core i5-3317U on Microsoft Surface Pro. Here are the findings.

Feature Core i5-3427 (Chromebook Pixel) Celeron 867 (Chromebook 550) Core i5-3210M (MacBook Pro) Core i5-3317U (Surface Pro)
Speed 1.8 GHz 1.3 GHz 2.5 GHz 1.7 GHz
Turbo Boost speed 2.8 GHz Not available 3.1 GHz 2.6 GHz
Cores Dual Dual Dual Dual
Threads 4 2 4 4
Cache 3 MB 2 MB 3 MB 3 MB
Graphics base frequency (render speed for graphics performance) 350 MHz – 1.15 GHz 350 MHz – 1 GHz 650 MHz – 1.1 GHz 350 MHz – 1.05 GHz

As you can see the MacBook Pro processor is better than Chromebook Pixel’s. Surface Pro has a configuration pretty similar to Pixel’s. The Core i5 CPU that comes on Chromebook Pixel is the exact same on Apple MacBook Air 13 inch model.

The battery on Chromebook Pixel lasts only about 5 hours, which is quite similar to what is offered by Microsoft Surface Pro. MacBook Pro on the other hand promises about 7 hours.

The Operating System

Chromebook obviously runs Google’s own desktop operating system—Chrome OS, which is an up and coming competitor to Mac OS X and Windows. However, it is not a full-fledged operating system. If you read our previous article about Chromebooks (linked above), you probably have an idea about the operating system.

1. Chrome OS Advantages

 

  • It is highly integrated to the web and cloud computing platforms, and hence it will need too little amount of resources. In short, it will be ultra-fast.
  • Storage required is virtually nil as most of the data you need is going to be on the cloud servers.
  • It is a free operating system that comes preinstalled in those Chromebooks and Chromeboxes.
  • Easiest of all OSes out there. If you know about Google Chrome browser, you know about Chrome OS.

Those were the major advantages of Chrome. However, there are huge disadvantages that overshadow the operating system on the whole.

2. Chrome OS Disadvantages

 

  • You are going to have to pay for cloud storage services if you are serious about this OS. Otherwise, you have to optimize an external hard drive as a cloud device. However, that is not going to be as easy to operate as in Windows or Mac.
  • The operating system is highly dependent on the Internet, and internet outages won’t be helpful at all.
  • You are not going to get any of your favorite desktop applications for Chrome OS. It will only have web apps similar to the add-ons you have on your Chrome browser.
  • Integration to other platforms is not quite good with Chrome OS. It is not even integrated well with Google’s own Android.
  • You can’t install Firefox or Opera or any other of your favorite browser on Chrome OS, although it is a browser-based operating system. If you want to work with Chrome, learn to love Google Chrome browser.
  • Other operating systems like Mac and Windows can provide you the exact same experience by installing the Chrome browser. Anything extra you are getting with a Chromebook is quite limited.

As you can see, Chrome OS has more disadvantages than advantages. You could easily get a better experience with full-fledged desktop operating systems by Apple or Microsoft. Chrome OS is not even regarded as a competition to Mac OS X and Windows. In Mobile World Congress, 2011, the then-CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt said:

There’s a separate effort called Chrome OS, which is unrelated in the following sense. Chrome OS is, you take Chrome, and build a completely new operating system largely targeted at netbooks and PCs. So one way to understand the division right now is that if you are an Android user you’re going to be on a touch device, and if you’re on a Chrome OS user you’re likely to be on a keyboard device. We’re working overtime to get those technologies merged in the right way. I learned a long time ago – don’t force technology to merge when it’s not ready – wait for the technology to mature so it can be merged.

It’s 2013, and still Google hasn’t found a way to merge Android and Chrome OS in the right way.

The Price & the Truth

Would you like to guess the price of the laptop? It comes in two flavors—Wi-Fi & LTE. Wi-Fi version is priced at 1299 dollars

, while the LTE version is 1449 dollars.

This is over 400 dollars more than Surface Pro, and doesn’t even compare to the Samsung Chromebook 550 which retails for only 449 dollars. Other Chromebooks are also extremely cheap—Acer C7 at $199

, Samsung original Chromebook at $249

, and HP Pavilion Chromebook at $329.99.

The highest end MacBook Air 13 inch is priced at $1399. MacBook Pro starts at $1199.

All in all, the price of Chromebook Pixel is very high and the hardware specifications don’t justify it. High PPI display is one of the features that cause such a large price tag, but that kind of a display is absolutely unnecessary in a laptop running Chrome OS, where we are less likely to run any graphics-intensive applications.

Chromebook Pixel also has certain other disadvantages. It has USB 2.0 ports, while all of the latest laptops come with USB 3.0 or ThunderBolt in Apple’s case. Chromebook Pixel runs Chrome OS and does not need an expensive processor or RAM.

Although 1 TB of online storage with Google Drive is charming, it is only for three years, and afterward, you will have to pay to keep the files as per Google Drive rates ($49.99 per month for 1 TB).

The laptop has only 32 GB of storage and 64 GB in case of LTE version. This is pretty low indeed for a laptop sporting Intel Core i5 processor and 4 GB of RAM. Clearly, it is a marketing technique to lure customers into opting for Google Drive storage.

Conclusion

You might have got the gist of this review when we were pitching Chromebook against other laptops and tablets. We have also detailed the major disadvantages of the product. Chrome OS and Chromebooks are for basic use, for those who spend a lot of time on the Internet and on social networks, and for those who favor web apps.

It is not for the regular people who do most of their work on desktop software. Keeping that in mind, releasing a somewhat high-end laptop with an unreasonably hefty price tag is not something we like to see.

Google Chromebook Pixel may be a high performance machine, but Chrome OS is not the operating system that should be running on it. Hence, our recommendation is no. You needn’t be excited about buying Chromebook Pixel unless you are really serious about Chrome OS.

How Fast Does Microsoft Surface Pro Perform?

In the last two days, Microsoft Surface Pro reviews have come up everywhere in the Web, and most of them have been about how bulky the tablet is and how bad its battery is. Only a few people have actually taken time to analyze the good things about Surface Pro tablet.

AnandTech has already done quite a bit of speed benchmarks for Surface Pro, and the results are quite charming. Let’s take a look at how fast Microsoft’s new tablet really is.

Surface Pro Vs. Other Tablets

This is the most exciting part of the benchmarks. On all of the tests, Surface Pro performed faster than all those known tablets—iPad, Google Nexus 7, Google Nexus 10, etc., and those smartphones—Motorola Razr i, HTC One X, Google Nexus 4, etc. Most of the reviews that appeared compared Surface Pro with other tablets and mentioned how bulky it is and how low its battery life is.

They forgot to mention how extremely ‘performant’ (borrowed from ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, who also gave thumbs-down to Surface Pro) this tablet really is.

Here are the results:

Surface Pro vs tablets

Surface Pro vs tablets

Surface Pro vs tablets

Surface Pro Vs. Ultrabooks

This is the main area that we are interested in. Up against smartphones and tablets, Surface Pro has no competition in performance. Among Ultrabooks with more advanced hardware, however, Surface Pro performs only on the average level as we can see.

Surface Pro vs ultrabooks

Surface Pro vs ultrabooks

Surface Pro vs ultrabooks

However, the Ultrabooks competing against Surface Pro are somewhat high-end with good tech specs. If you would spend money to buy one of them, you had better go with Surface Pro instead.

Conclusion

Microsoft Surface Pro is no tablet, but a tablet computer, and there is a difference. In effect, this particular product does give more stellar performance than all other tablets and smartphones. Hence, has to be regarded as one of the Ultrabooks and should be reviewed that way. About battery life, it does give about 4.5 hours and that is actually better than many of the Ultrabooks out there. Also, its weight of 2 pounds is probably the lowest of all Ultrabooks.

Whether or Not to Purchase: Razer Blade Gaming Laptop

Worldwide gaming systems provider, Razer has come up with the new edition of its popular gaming laptop, Razer Blade. The laptop is thin and extremely powerful. The technical specifications are as follows:

Processor 3rd Gen Intel Core i7 (2.2GHz-3.2 GHz)
RAM 8 GB dual-channel DDR3 (1600 MHz)
Storage 500 GB 7200 rpm SATA & 64 GB SATA III Solid State Drive for faster data transfer
Display 17.3 inch Full HD 1920x1080 px resolution
Graphics Intel GMA HD (mobile mode) and NVidia GeForce GTX 660 M with 2 GB GDDR5 video RAM
Operating System Windows 8 64 bit or Windows 7 HP 64 bit
Dimensions Width 42.7 cm
Height 27.7 cm
Thickness 2.24 cm
Weight 2.99 kg
Other features Razer Switchblade UI
Anti-ghosting keyboard
HD Webcam (2MP)
Digital 7.1 surround sound support (through HDMI)
Three USB 3.0 ports
Kensington lock
Bluetooth 4.0
Gigabit Ethernet port

 

These hardware specs make Razer Blade one of the most feature-packed gaming laptops in the industry today. However, when it comes to pricing, where does Razer Blade stand?

The Pricing

 

In the US market, Razer Blade now retails for 2499.99 dollars. That is a whopping amount of money, of course. With some really cool ultrabooks and tablets that come with amazing fast hardware at less than half the price, is it really justified to ask for such high price?

We looked through the prices of some of the popular gaming laptops in the market today. Here they are:

Alienware M17x: $1699.99
Toshiba Quosmio X870: $1400
MSI GT70: $2000
Asus G75VW: $1399.99
Falcon Northwest DRX: $3061
Origin Eon17-S: $1590

As you can see, except for the Falcon Northwest DRX, all others are fall much below Razer Blade. In terms of technical specifications, you cannot go wrong with any of these laptops.

The Features

 

The design of this new edition of Razer Blade is commendable. The specialty of the laptop is a multi-touch LCD panel beside the keyboard, in place of a regular laptop track pad. This LCD panel uses Razer Switchblade user interface that provides you with buttons giving important information about the game you are playing.

Razer blade LCD screen

 

With this LCD track pad, gamers can now enjoy browsing and social media connections while the game is being played on the main screen.

The default OS is Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit, while you have the option to upgrade to Windows 8. The laptop comes with a number of apps prebuilt, including Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, Twitter, etc., and some game-specific apps.

The Performance

 

There is no question about lag on this Razer product. One of the major requirements of all gaming laptops is the presence of a fast processor that compensates for a slower graphics card or a higher end graphics card compensating for a lower end processor. In Razer Blade, both the processor and the graphics card are on the higher end of the spectrum.

Also, with RAM of 8 gigs and dedicated graphics memory of 2 GB, it is not an overstatement to say the performance is stellar.

Razer itself has shown us graphs of the laptops’s performance over a given ‘baseline’; the baseline probably is Razer’s first version of the Blade. According to Razer, Blade performs 2 times faster on Diablo 3, 1.7 times faster in Battlefield 3, and it gives a 3D Mark Vantage score of 1.8 times the given baseline.

Data transfer rates on Razer Blade will be much faster, thanks to the presence of 3 USB 3.0 ports on the side.

However, the one thing they could improve on was the battery life. It is expected to give around 3 hours of backup. A larger battery would be against Razer’s design strategy for a ‘thin’ gaming laptop. Also, I don’t believe gamers would be compelled to work the laptop on battery. One thing to note is your processor will work at its lower clock rate while working on battery.

Intel TurboBoost technology that increases the speed of the processor in real time while demanding applications are running turns processor slower to 2.8 GHz in Blade’s case, while the laptop is on battery. This is a technique to save power. However, on a gaming laptop, this will decrease the speed.

Conclusion

 

Based on hardware features, Razer Blade is at the high end of gaming laptops in the market today. Now to the important question: Is it worth to buy this laptop? You can purchase this one if you have the budget, and it will be a very good purchase indeed.

Razer Blade’s secondary display is going to help you a lot in serious gaming. This is one of the reasons why we believe this laptop is worth the money you pay for it.