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In that incident, administrators at Lower Merion High School outside Philadelphia reportedly captured 56,000 images of students using the RAT installed on school-issued laptops.

One laptop, many chips The built-in cameras on Apple computers were designed to prevent this, says Stephen Checkoway, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins and a co-author of the study.“Apple went to some amount of effort to make sure that the LED would turn on whenever the camera was taking images,” Checkoway says.Most laptops with built-in cameras have an important privacy feature — a light that is supposed to turn on any time the camera is in use.But Wolf says she never saw the light on her laptop go on.While the research focused on Mac Book and i Mac models released before 2008, the authors say similar techniques could work on more recent computers from a wide variety of vendors.

In other words, if a laptop has a built-in camera, it’s possible someone — whether the federal government or a malicious 19 year old — could access it to spy on the user at any time.

That’s because a modern laptop is actually several different computers in one package.

“There’s more than one chip on your computer,” says Charlie Miller, a security expert at Twitter.

That helped to alert students to the issue, eventually leading to a lawsuit.

But more sophisticated remote monitoring tools may already have the capabilities to suppress the warning light, says Morgan Marquis-Boire, a security researcher at the University of Toronto.

For example, it can make it easier for a school’s IT staff to administer a classroom full of computers.