COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

A web camera can be a handy tool, until it's being used against you. Hackers can turn web cams into spy wear, and if you're not careful, they could be watching and listening without you ever realizing it.

"We've had it come up several times," said Tray Leatherwood, owner and lead technician for Computer Clarity, a Colorado Springs computer service company.

He said it's easier than you might think for hackers to access your phone or computer web cam.

"In essence, any two-way communication device that has a mic or camera does have the ability to have those features turned on," said Leatherwood.

He said hackers use web chat programs like Skype, iChat or MSN Messenger. It makes it easy if your settings let anyone call you, and automatically turn on your web cam when you get a call. If you chat with a stranger, Leatherwood said you've just given them enough information to potentially switch your settings.

"Say you're using MSN Messenger and you turn on a video chat with someone you don't know," he said. "They automatically know you're using MSN Messenger and have a web cam, so with those two things, if they can get a virus file into your computer, then they could change those settings."

Hackers can also get into your system by sending you an email or link. Once you click on it, your computer is taken over by the hacker's program. That can automatically turn on your web cam, as well as let the hacker see everything you're looking at online.

There are simple ways to prevent a hacker attack.

-Always unplug or cover your web cam when you're not using it -Don't talk to people you don't know -Make sure you have the right privacy settings on your web chat program -Don't click on any link from a stranger -Keep your computer updated and virus free

"The most important thing is maintaining your system properly and maintaining your computer," said Leatherwood.