How to find a hidden spy camera in hotel rooms and rental houses

How to find a hidden spy camera in hotel rooms and rental houses

Nearly 60% of Americans said they were concerned about hidden cameras in Airbnb homes in 2019.

And 11% of vacation home renters said they had discovered a hidden camera during a stay, according to a survey by property investment firm IPX1031.

Spy cameras are not a new problem. In South Korea, more than 30,000 cases of filming with hidden cameras they were reported to police between 2013 and 2018, according to the New York-based nonprofit Human Rights Watch.

The number of reports of hidden spy cameras has proliferated due to the increasing accessibility and low cost of such cameras, combined with the public’s growing ability to detect them, said Kenneth Bombace, chief executive of the intelligence firm Global Threat Solutions.

Experts share simple methods to locate hidden spy cameras in hotel rooms and rental properties.

1. Carry out a physical search

A light switch with a hidden camera (center) on display at a spy camera store in South Korea on March 22, 2019.

Jung Yeon-je | Afp | fake images

Almost all covert cameras are hidden in home devices, such as plugged-in lights, thermostats and clock radios, Bombace said.

“Look and see if anything seems out of the ordinary, and then take a closer look,” he said.

Most spy cameras are connected to an electrical source or electronic device, Bombace added.

He said the first thing he does in a bedroom is unplug the clock radios and put them in a drawer.

Michael O’Rourke, CEO of security consultancy Advanced Operational Concepts, also said it does exactly that.

Even well-hidden cameras will have a small amount of reflective lens glass, Bombace said.

“If you use flashlights and shine them on something that you think might obscure the camera, you’ll see a reflection there, which is a really good way to detect if there’s a camera,” he said.

A painting installed with a hidden camera on display at a spy camera store on March 22, 2019. Even when a camera is hidden in another device like a thermostat or an outlet, there will be some reflective glass because there will be a lens, Bombace said. .

Jung Yeon-je | Afp | fake images

But O’Rourke said care is needed to precisely locate the hidden lenses.

“A lot of people will try to do amateur lens detection, which may work,” O’Rourke said. “However, if you don’t have a good search methodology, if you go too fast, if you’re impatient, you can miss quite a bit.”

2. Look at the Wi-Fi network

A hidden camera must be connected to a local Wi-Fi network in order to view it remotely, Bombace said.

Hidden cameras must be connected to a local Wi-Fi network in order to view them remotely, Global Threat Solutions CEO Kenneth Bombace said.

Hispanist | E+ | fake images

Wi-Fi scanning apps like finger it can identify devices on the network that are cameras, he said.

Those that hide cameras can use a separate Wi-Fi network to stream live video, but Wi-Fi scanning apps can also detect how many networks are in a residence, Bombace said.

But Kody Kinzie, a security researcher at data security and analytics firm Varonis, warned that a network scanner may not catch everything.

“The next thing you can do is look for devices that are broadcasting their own network name,” he said.

He recommended using apps like WiGLE to find devices that “broadcast some kind of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi network name,” Kinzie added.

3. Buy a spy camera detector

If all else fails, spy camera detectors can search for radio frequencies connected to hidden cameras. These might be easily bought online from websites like Amazon or AliExpress.

But O’Rourke pointed out that this method only works if the hidden camera is transmitting data.

“A lot of them now have SD cards that just store data for retrieval after someone leaves,” O’Rourke said. “And these are much harder to detect.”

Bombace added that while it is possible to buy an RF scanner, the cheaper ones are probably not as good.

“Like anything else, you get what you pay for: If it’s $30, it’s probably not that great,” Bombace said. “The best ones are going to cost hundreds or even more than $1,000.”

What to do if you find a camera

After locating a camera, immediately unplug it without damaging it because the camera’s firmware can contain identifying information, such as login credentials and the Wi-Fi network it was connected to, Kinzie said.

Disconnect hidden cameras, but don’t damage them, said Varonis security researcher Kody Kinzie.

Krisanapong Detraphihat | Moment | fake images

O’Rourke said hidden cameras found in hotel rooms should be reported to the front desk. He then advised moving to another hotel instead of asking for another room.

“Once you find a camera in one room, I wouldn’t trust any other room in the entire hotel,” he said.

Bombace also recommended reporting hidden cameras to the police, even if just for documentation purposes, in the event of litigation or criminal charges.

“I could also provide [the report] to Airbnb so they can stop this person from doing this again,” he said.

But ultimately, Bombace said, he wouldn’t avoid renting a house for fear of spy cameras.

“You would just take common sense steps to protect yourself. And realize you’re not in your own home,” he said.

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