New privacy tool knew people in real time from live video costs to prevent hackers spying on you via your webcam
- An algorithm removes people from a video frame while leaving the background
- The tool deletes the images in real time while a person moves within a frame
- It can be used to increase privacy and prevent webcam espionage
A new software solution can put an end to hiding the built-in camera of your laptop with tape.
A YouTube video posted by Jason Mayes, a Google Web Engineer, shows off an algorithm that removes people from a webcam feed in real time, leaving only the background intact.
As noted by Gizmodo and confirmed by the Mayes video demonstration of the software, the tool is not quite perfect yet.
As he walks through the image, it leaves bits and pieces of his presence – usually only single pixels – scattered throughout the image.
Gizmodo also notes that as the neural network used to power the tool becomes increasingly sophisticated, the ability to erase images from a frame will work as well.
For now, the tool is more a demonstration than a really practical piece of software, but it can easily be used in a number of scenarios, especially for extra privacy.
By removing a person from the frame, they can be used as a kind of privacy fail safe in case the camera is hacked and / or controlled.
For example, if a hacker gains access to his webcam, this would prevent the attack from seeing what the victim is doing on the other side.
When it comes to mobile devices, the tool might even be more useful, as many people probably don’t feel at ease when walking around with a piece of tape or a Post-It note on the front camera of their phone.
Shown is a video demonstration of the tool in which Mayes walks through a room. The software removes most traces of its presence while moving in real time
Hackers have long had the option of controlling webcams connected via modern types of malware via various types of malware with which they can activate the camera remotely.
In addition to the hack being a serious breach of privacy, hackers can also use all images obtained during the attack as a means of extortion.
In 2014, a hacker was convicted of breaking into the webcams of dozens of women and attempted to use nude images that were collected in an attempt to extort them for money or force them to perform sexual acts on the Skype video call platform.