- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mark Zuckerberg was mocked earlier this month after his Twitter and Pinterest accounts were taken over by hackers, but a new photograph of the Facebook CEO implies he’s more serious about digital security than previously suggested.

The social network co-founder shared an image online Tuesday in which he’s seen sitting at his desk inside Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Eagle-eyed observers soon spotted something unusual about Mr. Zuckerberg’s laptop, however, and quickly drew attention to the security measures apparent on his Apple MacBook.

As evidenced in the image, masking tape has been applied to Mr. Zuckerberg’s MacBook to cover up his computer’s webcam as well as its microphone input.

Chris Olson, the chief of staff for a Culver City-based software company, was among the first to spot the security precautions, and a Twitter post where he shared the discovery was retweeted more than 7,000 times in under 24 hours.

“I noticed Mark used some good-old tape to cover his microphone and webcam, something that I’ve seen people use before to protect against hackers,” Mr. Olson recalled Tuesday on his Facebook page.

Indeed, vulnerabilities that allow unauthorized individuals to exploit computer components such as microphones and webcams are hardly rare, and cybercriminals and state-run intelligence agencies alike have been known to find way to remotely access hardware to conduct covert surveillance.

In 2014, documents disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. intelligence community has used malware in order to eavesdrop through the webcams and microphones of adversaries.

In April, FBI Director James Comey admitted that he too has covered up his computer’s webcam in order to evade eavesdroppers.

“I saw something in the news, so I copied it. I put a piece of tape — I have obviously a laptop, personal laptop — I put a piece of tape over the camera. Because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their camera,” Mr. Comey said.

“It is not paranoia. This is basic security awareness and security appreciation,” online security expert Robert Siciliano told ABC News this week. “Unfortunately there are many remote access Trojan viruses that can activate and enable a users webcam without their knowledge. That same webcam can also pick up room ambient sounds.”

Despite being an easy-to-install security measure, however, previous reports from earlier this month suggested the Facebook co-founder has failed elsewhere with regards to protecting his privacy. Mr. Zuckerberg’s Twitter and Pinterest accounts were breached earlier this month after hackers determined that his login passwords were the same connected to a LinkedIn account that had been compromised recently along with millions of others.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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