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Another researcher was able to convert the built-in Apple keyboard into spyware using a similar method.
According to the researchers, the vulnerability they discovered affects “Apple internal i Sight webcams found in earlier-generation Apple products, including the i Mac G5 and early Intel-based i Macs, Mac Books, and Mac Book Pros until roughly 2008.” While the attack outlined in the paper is limited to these devices, researchers like Charlie Miller suggest that the attack could be applicable to newer systems as well.
Most laptops with built-in cameras have an important privacy feature — a light that is supposed to turn on any time the camera is in use.
Now research from Johns Hopkins University provides the first public confirmation that it’s possible to do just that, and demonstrates how.
In that incident, administrators at Lower Merion High School outside Philadelphia reportedly captured 56,000 images of students using the RAT installed on school-issued laptops.
Students reported seeing a ‘creepy’ green flicker that indicated that the camera was in use.
“People are starting to think about what happens when you can reprogram each of those,” Miller says.
For example, he demonstrated an attack last year on the software that controls Apple batteries, which causes the battery to discharge rapidly, potentially leading to a fire or explosion.
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While the research focused on Mac Book and i Mac models released before 2008, the authors say similar techniques could work on more recent computers from a wide variety of vendors.