TODAY   |  January 24, 2013

Rossen Reports: Criminals use webcams for spying

Authorities are saying criminals can now hack into your webcam remotely, using it to watch your most intimate moments without you ever knowing. NBC’s Jeff Rossen investigates how you can protect yourself and your family.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we will begin this half hour with a new rocking report, could predators be spying on you and your kids through a webcam ? here with eye hoping and kind of frightening details. good morning to you.

>> hi. it is kind of scary. the really scary thing is we all use our computer and get distracted with something and simply walk away . you forget the computer is still on. the criminals are counting on it. now, they can hack into your webcam remotely watching your most intimate moments live. the worst part is you never even know. we will show you how they do it and how to protect yourself right now.

>> reporter: these teenage girls don't know it but a stranger is spying on them inside their bedroom. and in their dining room , as the family either dinner. little do they know, thousands of miles away , this man has hacked into their laptop and turned on their webcam .

>> people who are victims generally have no idea they are victims.

>> reporter: that man is working with us, computer expert jim stake stakely.

>> they have pictures of you or someone else ?

>> they're all over the internet.

>> reporter: they are easy targets. criminals like this man. prosecutors say he was spying on over 200 women through their webcams, watching their most private moments, even blackmailing some of them. he's now serving six years in prison.

>> reporter: these are criminal, peeping toms?

>> niethese are predator, your worst nightmare.

>> they are watching you in your most intimate moment.

>> anywhere, your bathroom, anywhere you have your hap tlaptop open. with with this family's permission, we had him hack into their computer and how did he do it, sent this little e -card.

>> they can see a quacking duck and without their knowledge i also loaded a trojan during that time.

>> reporter: giving him access even when the computer is in sleep mode. you have no clue.

>> have a seat. thanks for doing it. wi

>> reporter: we told the mom and daughters we came to do a general story about online security.

>> reporter: ever have a problem with someone hacking into your home?

>> no.

>> reporter: they had no idea days before we had been spying on them through our computer webcam . our interview over, we told the girls to go upstairs and wait in their room. then, downstairs, we let mom in on the secret.

>> we actually recorded your family dinner the other night. no one was in your house except for you guys.

>> it's really creepy. i mean, my children are on their computers in the evening in their bedrooms. i'm a little frightened right now for their security.

>> reporter: oh we took it up a notch. having our expert hack into the webcam in hertaug daughter's upstairs bedroom.

>> reporter: we're watching them in their bedroom.

>> i am sick over this.

>> this time it was our computer expert and next time it could be a predator.

>> i'm glad to learn from this and try to avoid this from ever happening.

>> reporter: then we gave the girls a wake-up call.

>> we've been watching you from downstairs from your webcam . your expert was able to hack into your system and watch you in your room.

>> oh, my god.

>> it's scary. definitely scary. someone could be watching you anytime and this is where you feel the most comfortable.

>> so how can you protect yourself, the main question. number one, shut off your computer when you walk away or close your laptop. you can also put a piece of black tape across the lens of the webcam . here's another tip. don't open any e-mails from people you don't know. we hear it all the time. that includes those facebook links that say things like watch this incredible video. unless you trust the person, don't do it. those random links are exactly how the hackers get in.

>> would you have any idea how widespread something like this is?

>> it's hard for the fbi to know that because many victims don't even know they're victims unless you're blackmailed like the gentleman in that story did. and the problem is once he gets in, he can have hundreds of people he can watch at once.

>> thank you. i don't think i'll be opening any e-mails from you any time soon.

>> he's not the problem.

>> i know. a check of