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I caught my computer eavesdropping on me.

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posted on Sep, 11 2012 @ 07:08 PM
I didn't see a General Paranoia forum, so I guess I'll put this here.

The other night I was working on a music project and I wanted to record a couple of seconds of streaming audio using my audio editing software (Audacity). I'd never used that function, so I knew I'd have to delve into the manual again. However, on the slim hope of avoiding some technical reading, I started off by just clicking the record button on the Audacity GUI and streaming the target audio. As expected, I didn't get the audio I was after.

What I didn't expect was the audio I actually got. The ambient sounds of my living room. I didn't realize this laptop has a built-in microphone. That was always on.

Of course, just because I had a live mike in my living room with a direct wireless link to the internet doesn't mean anyone could possibly monitor it, right? Good thing I'm law-abiding and boring.

Anyway, I'm posting because turning it off can be tricky and I can help. Here's some cut&paste from the Audacity manual.

Step 1: Set up devices to capture computer playback This is often the hardest part of the overall task, being dependent on your computer operating system and sound card. Many manufacturers are making it increasingly difficult to record streaming audio by deliberately removing or hiding this functionality due to copyright concerns.

As you can see, the focus isn't shutting off the mike, but these instructions will take you where you need to go (in Windows).

Windows Control Panel for sounds:
Windows Vista and 7 computers almost always only have microphone inputs enabled by default. Earlier Windows systems may also need the input for recording computer playback to be made visible before Audacity can use it. To show or enable inputs, launch the sound device control panel from the Windows Control Panel or from the system tray (by the clock).
Windows Vista and 7: 1. Right-click over the Speaker icon by the system clock then choose Recording Devices to open the Recording tab of "Sound". 2. Right-click anywhere inside the Recording tab and choose "Show disabled devices" then right-click again and choose "Show Disconnected Devices". 3. Right-click specifically over the input device you want to record with (in this case "Stereo Mix" or whatever alternative you have), and if visible, choose "Enable". 4. Sometimes it helps to right-click over the "stereo mix" or similar device again and choose "Set as Default Device".
Windows XP or earlier : 1. Right-click over the Speaker icon by the system clock then choose Adjust Audio Properties. 2. In "Sounds and Audio Devices Properties" or similar, click on the Audio tab, then in the Sound recording panel, select the "Default device" you are trying to record from (this will probably be the name of your built-in sound device). 3. Click the Volume button. 4. If you can see a stereo mix or similar option, try clicking in its box to select it. 5. Otherwise, choose Options then Properties. 6. In the window that appears, click the "Recording" radio button, then in "Show the following volume controls", click in the box for stereo mix or similar, then "OK".

See why I tried to get away with not reading the instructions?

posted on Sep, 11 2012 @ 07:13 PM
Now how about all those built in cameras? Constantly streaming video even when the screen saver kicks in.

Must be really entertaining to see just what goes on when you think you are all alone .

posted on Sep, 11 2012 @ 07:13 PM
people cant make unsolicited incoming connections to your computer if you have your firewall on. Firewalls are state full which means they will only let incoming connections in if there has been an outgoing request first. Even then under most circumstances the computer will ask you if the outgoing connection can be made first.

Ive had exactly the same thing happen to me in the past so dont worry

edit on 11-9-2012 by PhoenixOD because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 11 2012 @ 07:14 PM
most laptops now days have a built in microphone, have for some time.

Sounds like you meant to record system audio, and instead you recorded from the microphone feed, it happens, no one is spying on you.
edit on 11-9-2012 by benrl because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 11 2012 @ 07:15 PM
Eavesdropping? No. I don't see any ill-will from anyone. You simply don't seem to have a grasp on the system you have. I mean, you didn't even know you had a microphone!

There are times when software can turn on hardware to facilitate things for the user. With Audacity, it could be that by opening the program or pressing "Record" you enabled your microphone.

posted on Sep, 11 2012 @ 07:19 PM
Your microphone isn't always on, but when you use Audacity's record function it enables your default recording device. In this case, assuming you didn't have an external microphone hooked up to your computer, it turned on your webcam microphone.

The way you're going about infringing copyright law is absurd, lol. Recording your computers sound output is like home taping; sure, you're getting the song, but the quality is going to be garbage and your better off looking for alternative ways to snag the song online or purchasing it.

Furthermore, it's not copyright infringement unless you try to peddle off the song as your own and/or attempt to profit off of it's sales.

I think your paranoia is brought on by ignorance. Granted it is possible to hack a computer and manually turn on its webcam/microphone, it's unlikely that you're being targeted unless you are engaging in some other behaviors which you actually should be paranoid about. The MPAA and RIAA have no way to possibly track everyone who streams music online, so it's safe to say they won't come after you for "recording" a streamed song.

ETA: Audacity is a free open-source recording program, like pro-tools except no where as good. I recommend it if you're a musician and want to bang out a really rough demo without hooking up to a recording interface, but not so much if you're trying to edit music.
edit on 11-9-2012 by DestroyDestroyDestroy because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 11 2012 @ 07:26 PM
It should be considered as always on because any hacker who will EASILY bypass your firewall can turn it on. If I were you I'd open it up and physicaly disconnect the mic. Then buy an external mic if you need one.

posted on Sep, 11 2012 @ 07:30 PM
reply to post by Vitruvius

edit on 11-9-2012 by Silverado292 because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 11 2012 @ 07:53 PM
reply to post by VoidHawk

With Windows firewall turned on you cannot bypass it from the internet without using a client side exploit ie a Trojan or using an infected website, downloading some java script or flash .

There is no direct head on method to bypass windows firewall. A hacker can not just decide to attack you and bypass the firewall with some kind of trick.

If your computer is compromised by downloading a Trojan or exploit then yes..if its not then no.

edit on 11-9-2012 by PhoenixOD because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 11 2012 @ 08:01 PM
Yep : hackers can enable both video and audio. I covered my camera with a strip of electrical tape and plugged the mic opening with s wad of plumbers putty covered with electrical tape. I never use the internal mic anyway.
Even if they manage to enable them, all they will get is flat-line audio and blank video.
I don't think you are the least bit paranoid. As surely as you think you are secure, someone may be watching. Perhaps even they may be unaware of what they are actually doing...consider this incident....

. My wife turned on her lap top and my son came up on facebook. She was seeing him and could hear him. But didn't think he could hear or see her since she never set anything up to do so.
I asked her when she had downloaded the necessary app for it. She said she hadn't. She didn't know he could also see and hear her! But she was indeed seeing my son and hearing him.
I asked her if her mic was on..she didn't know. I called my son on the phone who confirmed that he was indeed watching my wife in the living room [in this case she had no idea he could see her]..He also repeated to me exactly what she had just said...My son lives across town in his own home.
He had just got his laptop and never had used computers before but still was indeed looking right into our living room and we had no idea. Needless to say that app has been deleted, and her audio properties have been ...shall we say...taken care of...
Suppose I had walked out into the Living room in my shorts! Or Worse! Not even aware someone was watching..and in this case someone was indeed watching! I will never trust a camera on a laptop.
Paranoid? I don't think so..This actually happened to me and my wife.

posted on Sep, 11 2012 @ 08:32 PM
Agree with most of the above. Will add, for your amusement that my cats seem to watch me when I'm sleeping. I think they are planning to overthrow the household.
Dear Lord in Heaven, I gottta make a thread on ATS so I might warn others.

posted on Sep, 11 2012 @ 11:01 PM
smokiiinnn da herb man make u paranoid android why would they watch you are you a hot babe nu your just paranoid .
you know you have problems when you have a listening device next to your bed like i do and people come in to check if your still breathing

posted on Sep, 11 2012 @ 11:43 PM
Wow. So many interpretations of what I was trying to communicate. That can only mean I wasn't being clear. I'll respond to TravisBickle451, hopefully in a way that will clarify the reason for this thread.

Originally posted by TravisBickle451
Eavesdropping? No. I don't see any ill-will from anyone. You simply don't seem to have a grasp on the system you have. I mean, you didn't even know you had a microphone!

There are times when software can turn on hardware to facilitate things for the user. With Audacity, it could be that by opening the program or pressing "Record" you enabled your microphone.

You're right on all points. This is my first laptop and I haven't had it long, so, yes, I don't have much of a grasp on my own system. Let's address that first, because I was posting with the assumption that I'm not alone in having a somewhat fuzzy knowledge of what my machine is doing. If you have Windows Vista or 7 you probably have a live mike right now. Now, you pointed out that Audacity may have turned on my microphone. That's entirely feasible, but if that's the case it failed to turn it back off. When you get to the "recording device" space you see a graphic volume indicator next to any recording device being shown. Any activity there means the device is processing audio. Until I disabled it (after I found it, after hitting "record" in Audacity just to see what would happen) it was continually active.

The other aspect is the whole "somebody's watching me" thing that I introduced with the title of the thread. Again, I agree, nobody turned on my mike remotely. It may have been my editing software, but my money's on the operating system's default setting. The question here is whether this data feed is accessible by the Feds. I was gratified to see a couple of members take up this debate.

It's my understanding that the government is fully capable of listening to my cell phone even when I'm not using it. Is this contested? Given that (again, in my understanding) cell phones switch frequencies several times a second using a pseudorandomising algorithm this would pretty much mean that the Feds have the decryption algorithms for everything we can buy. Like a laptop running Windows 7.

So just a couple more things. One, Mods, can we put this back in Conspiracies now? Two...COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT??? My original post clearly said "a couple of seconds of audio". Specifically 1.2 seconds. A cougar scream, offered for free in a format I can't work with, so I had to record it directly. I take full responsibility
for all misunderstandings stemming from my original post. Except that one.

posted on Sep, 12 2012 @ 07:30 PM
Xbox live can detect if you have changed the firmware on your drive - gets your system booted off live

I can just imagine what kind of "holes" are left in Microsoft software

posted on Sep, 14 2012 @ 04:26 AM
There's been viruses out there for ages that than turn on your microphone\webcam etc some of them upload to a remote location to be reviewed at a later date.

If someone can write a program that can do this - i'm sure the government can. Just they're as competent as BT customer service so a lot slips through the net and un-noticed.

posted on Sep, 17 2012 @ 10:15 PM

Originally posted by Vitruvius
The question here is whether this data feed is accessible by the Feds.

The answer is yes. But will they? Probably not.

Not unless your music throws in every red-flag keyword and/or image imaginable, and I don't see that happening. You don't seem the radical type they're looking for.

Now me on the other hand, I've been walking on eggshells for 5 years now. You just get used to after awhile.

I'm CIA, a troll, a dis-info agent, a paid shill, law enforcement and a black hat.......depending on who you ask. And let's not forget what I really do for a living. Legal consultant. Yes, I'm a VERY busy man.

If I were you Vit I would sit down one day and just play around with all the settings. Get to know what you have on a technical level.

Knowledge is the enemy of paranoia.

edit on 17-9-2012 by Taupin Desciple because: (no reason given)

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