How to find hidden spy camera in hotel rooms and rental properties

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

And 11% of vacation home renters said they discovered a hidden camera during their stay, according to a survey by real estate investment company IPX1031.

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

The number of reports of hidden spy cameras has soared due to the increasing accessibility and cheap price of such cameras, coupled with: the public’s growing ability to detect them, said Kenneth Bombace, CEO of intelligence firm Global Threat Solutions.

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

1. Perform a physical search

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

Jung Yeon-je | Afp | Getty Images

Nearly all secret cameras are hidden in home appliances, such as lamps, thermostats and connected clock radios, Bombace said.

“Look and see if anything seems out of the ordinary, then inspect it more closely,” 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 he does just that.

Even well-hidden cameras have a small amount of reflective glass from the lens, 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 pretty 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 such as a thermostat or electrical outlet, it will have some glass in it that is reflective because it has a lens, it said. Bombace.

Jung Yeon-je | Afp | Getty Images

But O’Rourke said caution is advised to accurately locate hidden lenses.

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

2. Look at the WiFi network

A hidden camera must be connected to a local Wi-Fi network to be viewed remotely, Bombace said.

Hidden cameras must be connected to a local Wi-Fi network to be viewed remotely, said Kenneth Bombace, CEO of Global Threat Solutions.

Spanish | E+ | Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

3. Buy a spy camera detector

If all else fails, spy camera detectors can scan for radio frequencies connected to hidden cameras. These can be easily purchased online from websites such as Amazon or AliExpress.

But O’Rourke noted that this method only works if the hidden camera is sending data.

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

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

“Like everything else, you get what you pay for — if it’s $30, it probably isn’t that good,” Bombace said. “Better ones are going to cost hundreds or even more than $1,000.”

What to do if you find a camera?

After you find a camera, unplug it immediately without damaging it, as 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 Detraphiphat | moment | Getty Images

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

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

Bombace also recommended reporting hidden cameras to the police, even if only for documentation purposes, in case a lawsuit or criminal prosecution were to follow.

“You Could Give Too” [the report] to Airbnb so they can prevent this person from ever doing this again,” he said.

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

“I would just take sensible steps to protect yourself. And realize that you are not in your own home,” he said.

Leave a Comment