Mark Zuckerberg is one of the most powerful men in the world because billions of people give Facebook, which he founded, free access to their personal data. In return, users receive carefully curated snapshots of his life: baby photos, mundane office tours and the occasional 5K.
On Tuesday, observers were reminded that Mr. Zuckerberg, 32, is not just a normal guy who enjoys running and quiet dinners with friends. In a photo posted to his Facebook account, he celebrated the growing user base of Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. An eagle-eyed Twitter user named Chris Olson noticed that in the image's background, his laptop camera and microphone jack appeared to be covered with tape.
Other publications, including Gizmodo, used the tweet to raise the question: Was this paranoia, or just good practice?
3 things about this photo of Zuck:— Chris Olson (@topherolson) June 21, 2016
Camera covered with tape
Mic jack covered with tape
Email client is Thunderbird pic.twitter.com/vdQlF7RjQt
The taped-over camera and microphone jack are usually a signal that someone is concerned, perhaps only vaguely, about hackers' gaining access to his or her devices by using remote-access trojans — a process called "ratting." (Remote access is not limited to ratters: According to a cache of National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden, at least two government-designed programs were devised to take over computer cameras and microphones.)
Security experts supported the taping, for a few good reasons:
• The first is that Mr. Zuckerberg is a high-value target.
"I think Zuckerberg is sensible to take these precautions," Graham Cluley, an online security expert and consultant, wrote in an email Wednesday. "As well as intelligence agencies and conventional online criminals who might be interested in targeting his billions, there are no doubt plenty of mischievous hackers who would find it amusing to spy upon such a high-profile figure."
• The second is that covering photo, video and audio portals has long been a basic and cheap security safeguard.