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But Checkoway and his co-author, Johns Hopkins graduate student Matthew Brocker, were able to get around this security feature.That’s because a modern laptop is actually several different computers in one package.The FBI says it found software on Abrahams’s computer that allowed him to spy remotely on her and numerous other women. While her case was instant fodder for celebrity gossip sites, it left a serious issue unresolved.
Their research is under consideration for an upcoming academic security conference.
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.
“There’s no reason you can’t do it -- it’s just a lot of work and resources but it depends on how well [Apple] secured the hardware,” Miller says. Brocker and Checkoway write in their report that they contacted the company on July 16.
Attacks that exploit microcontrollers are becoming more common.
“People are starting to think about what happens when you can reprogram each of those,” Miller says.
But researchers figured out how to reprogram the chip inside the camera, known as a micro-controller, to defeat this security feature.