You don’t have to be paranoid anymore to be wary of your Mac’s built-in microphone and camera. Hackers have been known to have been using these built-in devices to make identity theft easier for them. And since we all know what the name Snowden stands for, we should be on our guard for governments and — why not — corporates as well. It’s easy to cover up an iMac’s camera with a piece of paper (although you also cover up its ambient light measuring sensor that way), but it’s a lot harder to really turn off the microphone and rest assured nobody will turn it on without you even be aware. The developer of Little Snitch just made that harder, though. Micro Snitch is a menu app that constantly monitors your cam and mic and alerts you when it gets turned on.
Knowing the quality of service you can get out of Little Snitch, I decided to give the 2 Euro costing Micro Snitch a try. You can download the app from the obdev.at website. It will work for three (3) hours on end without nagging you for a payment. After three hours, and without you buying the app, it will quit by itself, after which you can relaunch it for another three hours.
Whereas Little Snitch will warn you of any sort of incoming and outgoing network traffic, Micro Snitch will warn you of any type of mic/cam activation. It means that, if you launch Audio Hijack 3 for example, and click the recording button, Micro Snitch will alert you with its nicely designed icon in a popup and then comfortably float in one of the corners of your screen (which you can set in the Preferences) until the mic and/or cam are released again. The app has a log feature for those times you’re not at your machine to immediately see the alert pop up.
With Skype, for example, Micro Snitch will pop when you select Skype’s Input Preferences. As long as there’s nothing using your microphone or camera, Micro Snitch will live in your menubar, greyed out and idle. And although I like the icon and the popup to come forward from time to time, it’s comforting to see Micro Snitch sitting idle for most of the time. It means my cam or mic are not being hacked, at least I don’t think so, as I am not skilled enough to try hack my system myself.
But whether you can depend on Micro Snitch to do what it claims to do against outsiders trying to turn your machine’s audio and video on, depends in large part on the company’s reputation for intercepting ‘traffic’ you are not aware of. Little Snitch having the excellent reputation it has, there’s no reason why Micro Snitch would be less effective.