How can hidden cameras be recognized?

Here's how to spot hidden security cameras with your phone

A family recently discovered a nasty surprise on their Airbnb: a hidden camera disguised as a smoke alarm in the living room. There are two ways to search for cameras with just an iPhone or Android phone - in an Airbnb or elsewhere.

Hidden cameras are a real danger

If you're staying at a hotel or Airbnb, cameras can be a concern. In the case of Airbnb, your host needs to list all the cameras they own, regardless of whether they are on or not. Additionally, Airbnb does not allow hosts to place cameras in bathrooms or sleeping areas, even if that is a living room with a fold-out bed.

But, as this one family found out, the occasional creepy landlord can still hide a camera and tell you nothing. Hidden cameras in an Airbnb are nothing new. The problem isn't limited to Airbnb either. A recent news item described the terrible history of live streaming hidden cameras in South Korean hotels. More than 1500 hotel guests were filmed and streamed live over the Internet. As hidden cameras keep getting cheaper, they seem to keep popping up.

Manufacturers are designing cameras that disguise themselves as other everyday items like smoke detectors, watches, USB hubs, and even wireless chargers. These can be used in your home for legitimate reasons, such as: B. to hide a camera that a burglar cannot find, or to monitor a nanny with the consent of that person. But how do you make sure that you are not being targeted with a hidden camera? With a single app and your phone's camera, you can search for hidden cameras when you check in.

There are two ways to search for cameras using your phone. If you have access, the first thing you can do is search the Wi-Fi network for devices that look like cameras. However, this will only find cameras that are connected to the network. Second, you can use your phone's camera to search for night vision cameras. If a hidden camera is not connected to the network and does not have night vision capabilities, either method will not detect it. However, these tricks should detect most cameras.

How to scan for network cameras

Many places where you stay will give you access to the local network. You can use this to your advantage with an app called Fing. Fing makes both iPhone and Android apps. Better still, it's free and doesn't have any ads. Fing asks you to sign in for more features. However, this is not required for scanning devices and ports.

The point here is to consider all the devices connected to the local network. It is recommended that you disconnect all devices other than the phone or tablet that is running Fing from your computer so that you have fewer things to do. Connect your phone or tablet to the network, then open Fing.

On Android, tap the "Refresh" button at the top right of the app's screen to get started and agree to grant location permissions for the app. The iPhone app will do this automatically.

Wait for the app to finish scanning, then look through the list of devices it has found. When looking at devices on the network that the app has identified, you want to look for anything that a camera manufacturer (like Nest, Arlo, or Wyze) says or lists as an "IP camera".

Even if you can't find a camera in this list, take stock of how many devices you see in the list and what you can find near where you are. If something turns out to be unusual (possibly with no apparent details) and you cannot find a good source, make a note of the IP address. The next step is to find open ports.

If you find any suspicious devices on the network, you'll want to look for open ports that those devices are using. First, tap the “Network” button at the bottom of the screen.

Then tap on "Find open ports".

Enter the IP address you entered earlier, then tap the blue "Find Open Ports" button.

The list shows which ports are open and which services they are using. Watch out for RTSP and RTMP. These are common for streaming videos. Anything with HTTP or HTTPS as a service that lets you try to connect to a browser, which may show streaming video. Just enter the IP address into your browser followed by a colon and the specified port (i.e. 192.168.0.15:80).

How to spot night vision cameras

You don't always have access to the local network to try the steps above. Even if you do, they might not help. A hidden camera may be on a separate network or too dark to be easily recognized. If you haven't found a camera yet, you can search for infrared lights. Most IP cameras use infrared for night vision. While infrared rays are invisible to the naked eye, you already have a device that can help you - your smartphone.

Some smartphones have filters that need to be hidden in infrared light on the main camera, but few of them have filters on the front camera. To determine which camera is right for you, grab an infrared remote control like the one you use for your TV. Point it at your smartphone's primary camera and press a button. When you see the light on the screen, it can detect infrared. If it doesn't, try again with the front-facing camera.

Once you've found the best camera, turn off the lights in the room you want to sweep. Then turn on your smartphone's camera and look for glowing lights. IP cameras do not come in a standard configuration, so only one, four, six, or some other light combination may be displayed. They're usually purple, but sometimes they look white. You don't necessarily have to be anywhere near the hidden camera. In the picture above, the camera is only a few meters away. But look at another picture from the other side of the house:

The lights in the center of the frame are the same camera, just three rooms away (a dining room, living room, and study). This is bright enough to be noticed and warrant further investigation. Don't just look into the middle of the walls, point your smartphone at the ceiling, at ventilation slots and even at power outlets. When the lights are on, look for something out of the ordinary. Does a room have more than one smoke detector? Is there a USB hub in a place with no other electronics? If you touch a standard mirror and look at your finger from an angle, your reflected finger won't touch your actual finger. If you do the same with disposable glass, your reflected finger and real finger are touching (appear to be touching) and this could be hiding a camera. Detecting bugs can help you find hidden cameras.

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to find a hidden camera. But if you take these extra steps when you arrive, you get a chance to fight and hopefully some peace of mind.