Whether for good or bad, the influence the Internet has had on travelling is undeniable. From how we plan our journeys through to how we document them, the Internet has changed the way in which we explore the world. One of the biggest disruptors in the travel space has been Airbnb – a service that connects travellers with those looking to rent out their spare rooms. The low-cost accommodation, along with the opportunity to “immerse yourself within a culture” by staying with a local, made it an overnight success with holiday goers and travellers alike. Airbnb provided the world with a new, more affordable way to both see the world, and to easily rent out your empty spaces. Many people have also had incredible experiences with generous hosts - people willing to show them around, take them to social events, and even teach them new skills! Sadly though, bad people exist. Over the past year, there have been more and more reports of guests discovering their Airbnb hosts secretly filming them with hidden cameras. And yes, you guessed it – most of these cameras have been found in the bedroom.
Cameras are becoming a staple part of home security systems. The appearance of them on the outside of a house can deter thieves and the recordings can also help identify break-in culprits. IP cameras can even connect via the Internet to an app on your phone. This alerts homeowners to movement within their property, allowing them to catch thieves in real-time. Because of this increase in home surveillance devices, Airbnb has a strict policy on what is allowed when it comes to cameras – namely, they are prohibited from being placed within bedrooms or bathrooms, and hosts must declare the location of any other cameras elsewhere in the property. However, this doesn't always stop some hosts attempting to secretly film their guests. Whether it's for their own personal enjoyment or to sell the footage on the Internet, there are no good intentions for having a secret camera pointing at a bed. Particularly an IP camera with the capability to stream live to a website.
Gone are the 80’s where cameras were so big you needed to rest them on your shoulder to support them – you can now buy cameras that are the size of a kidney bean! From hidden IoT to fake smoke detectors, as camera technology progresses it is sadly becoming easier to hide secret cameras. One particular case though that was recently brought to the attention of Fing (shout out to Adam Glenn on Twitter!), was the discovery of an IP camera hiden inside a fake motion sensor. https://twitter.com/textfiles/status/935305053258125312
As Jason Scott said in his tweet, this sadly is a thing now, but this doesn’t mean you have to hole yourself up in a cave somewhere. There are steps you can take to check if your Airbnb hosts are secretly filming you. Fing user, Adam, was very quick to jump in with what is, we think, a quick and brilliant way to start your search for IP cameras! https://twitter.com/DrAdamGlen/status/935539853726486528 IP cameras need the Internet to store or stream their footage, so there is a chance the cameras are actually connected to your Airbnb host's network - the same WiFi that you have been allowed to connect to. Our free Fing app allows you to scan the WiFi you are on and see all the other devices, both wired and wireless, also connected to that network. All you have to do is open up the app and a network scan is automatically performed on the Internet you are connected to. The Fing app will even tell you the make, model, and type of the devices discovered, so you can easily identify if the cameras picked up on the app match the cameras the host has disclosed to you. Can you only see two cameras on the outside of the building, but the Fing app is telling you there are five connected to the host’s Internet? This could indicate hidden cameras that you haven’t been told about. If an IP camera has no connection to the Internet it can't stream its footage. Disconnecting the Internet would stop the footage streaming, but it doesn't mean you are out of the danger yet.
Although Fing can help with the first step of your investigation, cameras not appearing on your network scan does not necessarily indicate you are safe from secret filming. Some hosts provide a guest WiFi that is separate from their personal Internet – if the cameras are connected to their personal network and you don’t have access to it, you will not be able to pick them up in a scan. Secondly, some cameras film to memory cards and therefore do not require access to the Internet. These cameras most likely wouldn’t show up on a network scan. Our friends over at Mashable have come up with a list of further steps you can take to look for a hidden camera, including:
There is also the less technical method of performing a physical search. Look closely for objects that:
It sounds simple, but with each secret filming story that's revealed, those wishing to film you are only going to get cleverer with how they do it. So, going travelling soon? Make sure to add Fing to your list of handy little travel companion apps to help keep your privacy protected whilst staying in other people’s homes. It's free and available on both iOS and Android.