Have you seen famous photo with Mark Zuckerberg and his overtaped webcam and microphone on his Macbook Pro? And what about NSA’s mass spying exposed by Edward Snowden? How this affects our security and privacy? Webcams usually use diodes which are turned on while webcam is activated, but is this hackable? And microphone? How I know that my microphone was activated? Is someone recording me? Although Macs are generally more secure that common Windows PCs, nothing is 100% secure. Solution is called Micro Snitch from Objective Development, creator of Little Snitch.
Micro Snitch is tiny security utility to protect your privacy. It operates inconspicuously in the background and logs any suspicious webcam and microphone activity. It will put an icon in system top menubar to easily access to app features like checking active devices, settings, logs, etc. I recommend to set it to launch at login. All events are logged, so you can review your microphone/webcam activity even if you were away from your Mac. It uses macOS’s built-in Console app, it creates file with name “Micro Snitch.log”, which can be found in “~/Library/Logs” folder. This file can be accessed directly in Micro Snitch menu, so no advanced knowledge is required to access your logs. Logs are very clear and simple, just look:
As you see, it even detected my iPad Pro. But here are some limitations:
Due to limitations in Core Audio, Core Media IO and some third party device drivers, some devices may be reported as active (for example it shows that external microphone is connected, something like my iPad Pro in screenshot above), but it won’t reports if input/output layers are active. I will explain it: built-in microphone on your Mac only got input layer, so Micro Snitch works correctly. If your device got both input and output layers, like some external displays, and sound is played back by that device, then macOS’s layer called Core Audio reports device as active, but in that case Micro Snitch cannot detect if input or output layer is active due to Core Audio limitations, it can only detect that device is connected to your Mac, but no device activity is shown. Also, some hardware manufacturers allows to 3rd party software to directly interface with the hardware, bypassing Core Audio and Core Media IO, so Micro Snitch cannot detect this hardware. On some Macs (MacBook Pro with Retina display Late 2013 and newer, MacBook with Retina display Early 2015, MacBook Air Mid 2013 and newer) running OS X Yosemite is an issue with FaceTime HD Camera, resulting in not to detect that FaceTime HD Camera is recording. Another issue on these Macs on Yosemite is that Micro Snitch can detect FaceTime HD Camera as active even if you closed app which used your webcam (like Skype) and Mac’s webcam is not active. This issue was fixed in OS X El Capitan.
How will Micro Snitch alert me?
Simply. You will get notification in Notification Center (configurable in macOS System Preferences -> Notifications) and an overlay icon in middle or corner of your display (can be adjusted in Micro Snitch settings). Click HERE for screenshot.
App is available on developer’s website and on Mac App Store. There is not functional difference. Version from developer’s website features its own update mechanism and requires to enter license key, Mac App Store version does not need license key and is updated via Mac App Store mechanism.
You can download reviewed app(s) here: