Dell's new laptops have a crafty feature to stop anyone spying through your webcam

Dell SafeShutter
(Image credit: Dell)

As video conferencing software has allowed employees working from home to collaborate with their coworkers, concerns have arisen regarding the privacy and security of our webcams.

Earlier this year, Dell unveiled a number of new business laptops in its Latitude line that are designed to enable employees to work from anywhere securely. Privacy was a big focus of the PC giant's design process and its new Latitude 9420 and 9520 laptops are its first devices to include its SafeShutter feature.

SafeShutter is the industry's first automatic webcam shutter and it knows when to automatically open or close by syncing with a user's video conferencing software. 

Designing SafeShutter

In a new blog post, VP of Dell Latitude and Mobility Products at Dell Technologies, Meghana Patwardhan provided further insight into what went into designing the company's new SafeShutter feature.

While SafeShutter connects to your video conferencing software, the feature gives users total control over their privacy by allowing them to disable their webcam (F9) or mute their microphone (F4) by using the devices function keys. Although the feature works automatically, these keys provide extra assurance at the hardware level and offer additional security.

However, the process of designing SafeShutter was a bit complicated for Dell's engineers as its Latitude laptops have small bezels with no room to put a mechanical camera shutter. For this reason, they designed a new security-hardened, hardware-controlled circuit tied to the F4 and F9 keys. These keys work regardless of which video conferencing software you're using so that you don't have to fumble around in menus when using a program you're not familiar with.

A Dell engineer also accidentally created an audible “click” that lets users know when the camera is closed. At the same time though, the company created a privacy LED light that turns on when the camera is in use and this light is also paired with the keyboard indicator lights to let you know if your camera and mic are on or off.

The Latitude 9420 will be available in the spring starting at $1,949 (£1,434) while pricing for the Latitude 9520 has not yet been announced.  

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Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.