PROTECT YOURSELF FROM AIRBNB CAMERAS:
The good news is that doing network and port scans for suspicious devices on the local Wi-Fi network doesn’t require as much technical knowledge as you might fear. Nor does it require expensive gear.
Various apps that can perform the scans for you; Barker recommends Angry IP Scanner, NetworkMapper, and Network Scanner by First Row. In his Ireland Airbnb, Barker used Network Scanner for the network scan and NetworkMapper for the port scan, but most apps have both features.
Network scans generally allow users to view the IP addresses and manufacturers of devices connected to the Wi-Fi. In Barker’s case, the manufacturer of the hidden recording device was literally listed as “IPCAMERA.” Once you have the list, it’s a good idea to work backward. “You should in theory be able to tick off each device found through the scan to a device you are aware of and can physically see,” Barker wrote.
If you see a device that looks suspicious, a port scan can help to identify its purpose. The scan will list the different ports for connecting to the device and the services they provide. The services will be listed as short codes; a Google search will generally reveal what the codes mean. For example, the code RDP indicates that users can remotely control the desktop of the computer. The codes RTMP and RTSP are for video streaming.
These sorts of scans will only work if your device and the camera are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. If the camera is on a different network, or if it stores the footage on an internal hard drive, you’ll have a harder time finding it. For more details on how the scans work, check out the guide that Barker wrote for travelers after his Airbnb incident.
Good old-fashioned sleuthing can also be helpful for finding cameras. Consumer-grade hidden cameras come embedded in a variety of different commonplace objects. Glance through the website for BrickHouse Security or the Amazon search results for the term “hidden camera” and you’ll find fake alarm clocks, USB chargers, buckets, lamps, stuffed animals, and bottles of Mountain Dew ($429–$519 on the website Covert Law Enforcement, if you’re curious) with discreet pinhole cameras. When you enter a room, you should check around to see if anything looks out of place. “These things tend to stand out like a sore thumb,” says Dan Tentler, founder and CEO of Phobos Group, a cybersecurity firm. For example, he recommends checking to see whether there are inexplicably two smoke detectors in the same room.
Holding an object in your hands can also help to determine whether it’s fake. “If there’s a can of Mountain Dew randomly sat on the kitchen counter … and you walk up and pick up the can, you’re going to immediately know that it’s a hidden camera,” says Tentler. Look for reflections when you shine a light on objects, which may reveal the presence of a lens.
If and when you find such a device, make sure to alert Airbnb or the hotel. You might also want to inform law enforcement, especially if you’re in a state where two-party consent is required for recording. “If you find a camera, take pictures of it,” says Tentler. “Make noise, post pictures of the thing on the internet, on Twitter.”
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