Is the iSight indicator LED hardwired or can it be circumvented?
when a macbook's built-in iSight camera is activated, this is indicated by a green light right next to it.
My question is: Can anyone confirm that this indicator light is hardwired e.g. with the camera's power supply, so that it is by hardware impossible to use the camera without the light? (I sure hope so.)
Or can the indicator LED be switched off by software? (Clearly, this is not intended and most probably would not be documented, but it could still be technically possible. And if it is, I would guess, NSA and Co. have ways to acess it, and I don't want them in my home).
In other words: (How much) can I trust the green camera indicator LED?
Here we go.
The answer is: Yes, the iSight indicator can be circumvented, no, it is not hardwired.
Now, esp. @mayer, tell me who is paranoid and who has just been naive.
So, I will try to sum this up.
A) As for the original question: Although there are several hints into both directions, there appears to be no evidence what so ever about whether the green indicator LED of the iSight camera is actually hardwired to the camera or not. And although, until further evidence, we have to assume that it is theoretically possible to use the iSight camera without activating the indicator light, it seems to be very hard to achieve and has possibly never been done yet (Thanks, fanxAlot for insisting on the original question with me).
B) Even if the LED was hardwired, there is no reason to feel safe from being spied on, because, as Dan pointed out, if single pictures are snapped, the light only flashes briefly, which is hard to notice.
C) If one is concerned about privacy and wants to invest time to make a Mac more safe, other issues are probably more important to look at, given that
- There is still at least one microphone in every macbook (without any usage indicator) and
- Spying on the contents of the screen and hard drive is easier to do and in many cases more revealing than the camera.
- This becomes even more relevant, now that OSX Mavericks introduces a mode where the computer is life and online even during 'sleep' time.
- Talking about agencies (domestic or foreign), with access to infrastructure providers, phones are more interesting targets anyway, since they are typically always on, always near us, officially remote controllable and harder to monitor.
Thanks for the discussion so far, and if anyone finds hard evidence to resolve the original question, please still post it here!
Cheers - Heiko
Is this a good question?