Airbnb: How to Spot Hidden Cameras in Rental Properties

The rise of home rental services like Airbnb has rapidly changed the way we vacation, but there is also a possible dark side.

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

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

In his video, he showed local police arriving to record the incident, which is a felony under Texas law.

“Someone is going to get a felony for invasive visual recording,” Ms. Walsh captioned her video, which has had more than 548,000 views.

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

“In the ‘oh that’s a thing now’ news, a colleague of mine thought it was weird that there was only one ‘motion detector’ in his Airbnb in the bedroom and voila, it’s a web-connected IP camera,” he tweeted. adding: “(Left at 3am, reported, host is suspended, colleague got a refund.)”

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

In a clip viewed more than five million times, Marcus Hutchins, who teaches cybersecurity, recommends shining a flashlight around the room when you arrive to look for potential recording devices and pay attention to obvious places a camera might be placed.

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

“Now one way to see if the device is a camera is to shine a bright light on it. If you hit a camera lens, you’ll get a bluish reflection. You can test this by shining a light on your phone and seeing what the camera looks like when placed under a flashlight.”

So should we all be looking for cameras in our vacation rentals now? And, if so, how?

“You have to be aware of the possibility of it happening,” says Keith Roberts, a tech at Advanced Sweeping, a company that detects errors for individuals and businesses. the independent. “There are some bad people in the world.”

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

“Spy cameras and devices are much more prevalent these days. Before there was a select market, and you had to know someone to get one. Now it’s much easier to buy them: anyone can buy them on Amazon or eBay.”

Although Roberts suggests hiring a professional company to check if you want to be absolutely sure you’re not being recorded, there are a few things a layman can do to check for cameras.

Look around

“With cameras, you have to look for little holes, which is where the lens will be,” says Roberts. “Check common items: backs of books, mirrors, light bulbs, houseplants. Look in logical places; if someone was looking for information, they put a device in the room. If the person were a voyeur, she would probably put a camera in dressing areas like the bathroom, shower, and bedroom.

“Check out the places that would provide the best field of view and are not obstructed – often the camera would be high up so whoever is filming will gain as much as possible.”

shine a torch

You don’t need to be Inspector Gadget to do a solid sweep for cameras – a humble flashlight, like the one on your smartphone, will do the trick. “You can look for a lens with a flashlight and it’s 92 to 95 percent accurate,” says Roberts. “Turn off all the lights and light a torch slowly in every inch of the room; any camera lens will reflect light.”

check the mirror

Are you worried that the mirror is bidirectional? There is a very simple way to check it. “The fingernail test is old but it still works,” says Roberts. “Put a fingernail against the glass. In a real mirror, you can’t reach your finger in the reflection. But if you can touch your own finger in the reflection, that’s a problem. It’s a strong indication that it’s 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 ones are around £40 to £50.” For real peace of mind, it might be worth investing in.

Search 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 search 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 latest story on camera spying, Dr. Adam Glen tweeted: “Most hosts generally allow you to access your local network via wifi. Use @fingapp to scan the network for IP cameras. not a full test [sic] detection method, but it can give an indication”.

If you find something amiss (bearing in mind that the host may have legitimate security cameras off the premises), disconnect the router from the Internet to make sure you’re not being watched.

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

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