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Visual Hacking (Shoulder Surfing) – How To Protect Yourself

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Is Anyone Watching You?

Visual Hacking, or Shoulder Surfing, is a simple technique to look over another person’s shoulder while they enter confidential data into a computer or mobile device. 

Visual hacking does not require any programming skills or fancy software, just simple observation.   

Examples include:

·         Monitoring your keystrokes as you log into your computer

·         Devices and/or applications to record sound, video or take photographs

·         Watching your computer monitor or laptop display

·         Observing papers around you, on your desk, etc. 


This technique can be used by criminals to try and gain access to your computer, passwords, client data, emails and other confidential information. 

Visual Hacking doesn’t necessarily mean the criminal is right behind you.  Criminals can conceal miniature cameras, video cameras and use smart phones to record your keystrokes from a distance when logging into your computer or other mobile devices. 

Victims are usually unaware they are being recorded or photographed as scammers appear to be texting, surfing or talking on their cell phones. 

As technology becomes more portable and advanced, it’s important to be on guard and aware of techniques hackers use to ensure your information remains safe and secure.  

Follow These Steps to Avoid Visual Breaches

1.     Be aware of your surroundings.  Look not just for people, but also for mobile device cameras and video recording devices.  When accessing personal information online in public areas – whether from your laptop or mobile device – look for a place where your back is against the wall before logging in.

2.     Reposition your monitor/laptop or consider using a privacy screen if the display is visible to the public.  Be cognizant of windows or open spaces behind you. 

3.     Passwords and security codes should never be spoken.

4.     Don’t be afraid to ask.  If someone is lurking around, simply ask “How may I help you?”

5.     If you’re at work:Keep a Clean Desk by filing or turning papers over to protect unauthorized viewing.  Shred all company or client confidential documents. Pick-up print-outs and faxes immediately after printing or sending.

Remember…Education is the best resource to prevent visual hacking.  The best defense is not technology, it’s you.