Airbnb: how to spot hidden cameras in rental properties

Airbnb: how to spot hidden cameras in rental properties

Airbnb: how to spot hidden cameras in rental properties

The rise of home rental services like Airbnb has quickly changed the way we vacation, but there’s a dark side too.

Several stories of vacationers finding hidden cameras in rental properties in recent years have raised questions about the safety of staying in a stranger’s home.

In February, Brittany Walsh of Texas posted a TikTok video of a ping-pong ball-sized camera she found in the bathroom of her Austin rental apartment.

In her video, she showed local police arriving to capture the incident, which is a crime under Texas law.

“Somebody needs to catch a felony for invasive visual recordings,” Ms Walsh wrote on her video, which has been viewed more than 548,000 times.

Meanwhile, in 2017, Jason Scott tweeted a photo of a camera hidden in a motion detector that his unnamed colleague discovered in an Airbnb apartment.

“In ‘oh, that’s a thing’ news, a colleague of mine thought it was odd that there was a single ‘motion detector’ in his Airbnb in the bedroom and voila, it’s an IP camera connected to the internet” , he tweeted, adding: “(He left at 3 a.m., checked in, host has been suspended, colleague got money back.)”

The matter came to light again after a British TikTok user, who described himself as an “ex-hacker”, shared his tips for spotting hidden cameras in Airbnbs in a video that quickly went viral.

In a clip that has been viewed more than five million times, cybersecurity lecturer Marcus Hutchins recommends shining a flashlight across the room when you arrive to look for possible recording devices and pay attention to obvious places a camera can be placed.

“Take this fire alarm, for example, it’s right above the bed,” he says.

“One way to tell if the device is a camera is to shine a bright light on it. When you hit a camera lens, it gets a bluish reflection. You can test that by shining a light on your phone and see what the camera looks like under a flashlight.”

Should we all be looking at cameras in our vacation rentals now? And if so, how?

“You have to be vigilant about the probability of the possibility,” Keith Roberts, an engineer for Advanced Sweeping, a company that detects bugs for individuals and businesses, tells WebMD. the independent† “There are some bad people in the world.”

He says the number of hidden cameras that Advanced Sweeping finds has increased in recent years.

“Cameras and listening devices are much more common these days. There used to be a select market, and you had to know someone to get your hands on one. They are now much easier to buy – anyone can buy them directly from Amazon or eBay.”

While Roberts suggests calling in a professional company to make sure you don’t get taped, there are some things a layperson can do to check for cameras.

Look around you

“With cameras you have to look for small holes, that’s where the lens will be,” says Roberts. Check common items: the backs of books, mirrors, light bulbs, house plants. Look in logical places; if someone was looking for information, they put a device in the lounge. If the person were a voyeur, they would probably put a camera in the changing rooms such as the bathroom, shower room and bedroom.

“Check the places that give the best field of view and are unlikely to be obstructed – often a camera would be high up so that whoever is filming gets the most out of it.”

Shine a torch

You don’t have to be an Inspector Gadget to do a solid camera search — a modest flashlight, like the one on your smartphone, will do the trick. “You can find a lens with a flashlight and it’s 92 to 95 percent accurate,” says Roberts. “Turn off all the lights and slowly shine a flashlight into every inch of the room — all camera lenses reflect the light.”

Look in the mirror

Worried that the mirror could be two-way? There is a very simple way to check this. “The fingernail test is old, but it still works,” Roberts says. ‘Put a fingernail against the glass. In a real mirror you can’t get your finger into the reflection. But if you can touch your own finger in the reflection, that’s a problem. It is a strong indication that it is a two-way mirror.”

Invest in a detector

While companies like Advanced Sweeping spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on professional device detectors, it is possible to buy cheaper versions. Roberts says, “There are professional lens hunters you can buy – the cheapest cost around £40 to £50.” For real peace of mind, it can be worth investing in.

Scan on webcams

There are two main types of surveillance cameras: those that record to an SD card and those that are connected to the Internet. You can scan for webcams by connecting to the host’s Wi-Fi and using a free network scanner to find internet-connected cameras. In response to Jason Scott’s most recent camera espionage story, Dr. Adam Glen: “Most hosts generally give you access to their local network over Wi-Fi. Use @fingapp to scan the network for IP cameras. Not full proof [sic] detection method, but can give an indication.”

If you don’t like something (taking into account that the host may have legitimate security cameras outside the property), unplug the internet router to make sure you aren’t being watched.

Finally, if you find what you think is a hidden camera, don’t just complain to the company you booked with, but report it to the police.