A family recently discovered a rude surprise at their Airbnb: a hidden camera disguised as a smoke detector in the living room. Here are two ways to check for cameras—in an Airbnb or elsewhere—using only an iPhone or Android phone.
Hidden Cameras Are a Real Danger
If you’re staying in a hotel or an Airbnb, hidden cameras can be a worry. In the case of Airbnb, your host is required to list any cameras they have, whether or not they’re turned on. Additionally, Airbnb does not allow hosts to place cameras in bathrooms or sleeping areas, even if that’s a living room with a foldout bed.
But, as this one family found out, the occasional creepy host can still hide a camera and not tell you. Hidden cameras in an Airbnb aren’t a new thing. The problem isn’t limited to Airbnb, either. A recent news story described the harrowing tale of hidden cameras live-streaming in South Korean hotels. More than 1500 hotel guests were filmed and live-streamed over the internet. As hidden cameras become even more inexpensive, they seem to be popping up more and more.
Manufacturers design cameras disguised as other everyday objects, like smoke detectors, clocks, USB hubs, even wireless chargers. These can be used for legitimate reasons in your own home—for example, to hide a camera a burglar can’t find or to monitor a nanny with that person’s consent. But how do you ensure someone isn’t targeting you with a hidden camera? With a single app and your phone’s camera, you can do a sweep for hidden cameras when you check in.
There are two ways to scan for cameras with your phone. First, if you have access, you can scan the Wi-Fi network for devices that look like cameras. But this will only find cameras connected to the network. Second, you can search for night vision cameras using your phone’s camera. If a hidden camera isn’t connected to the network and doesn’t have night-vision capabilities, neither method will spot it—but these tricks should spot most cameras.
How to Scan for Networked Cameras
Many places you stay give you access to the local network. You can use this to your advantage with an app named Fing. Fing makes both iPhone and Android apps. Better yet, it’s free and doesn’t have ads. Fing does ask you to sign in for more features, but you won’t need to do that for the device and port scanning.
The idea here is to look at all the devices connected to the local network. We recommend disconnecting all your devices except the phone or tablet running Fing so that you’ll have fewer things to sort through. Connect your phone or tablet to the network and then open Fing.
On Android, tap on the “Refresh” button at the top-right of the app’s screen to get started and agree to give the app location permissions. The iPhone app performs this step automatically.