The Free Apps That Will Find Hidden Cameras In An Airbnb—Or Your Home
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The Free Apps That Will Find Hidden Cameras In An Airbnb—Or Your Home

Apps can reveal if cameras are hidden in your holiday rental


Airbnb is banning the use of indoor security cameras in properties listed for rent on its site. But even when the ban takes effect from the end of April, how can you be sure that a property owner isn’t spying on you?

So-called security cameras are ridiculously easy to disguise. Search sites such as Amazon and eBay for “hidden security camera” and you’ll easily find cameras disguised as smoke alarms, USB power adapters, wall clocks, and many more everyday household objects.

In other words, cameras inside rental properties—or even your home—may not look like cameras. And with domestic abuse charities highlighting how such devices are often used by coercive partners, it’s not only people taking holiday lets who need to be on the lookout for hidden cameras.

Fortunately, there are free apps that can identify hidden cameras inside properties, even those you don’t own. They are not 100% foolproof, but they could help you find a hidden camera in an Airbnb rental or your own home that isn’t immediately obvious to the naked eye.

How To Find Hidden Cameras

The key to finding hidden cameras is access to the property’s Wi-Fi network. Most Airbnb rentals will offer Wi-Fi and free apps can be used to scan the Wi-Fi network, revealing which other devices are connected.

On Android, apps such as Network Analyzer will scan the Wi-Fi network you’re currently connected to and list any device that is currently connected. The Ubiquiti Wifiman app performs a similar job for iPhone and iPad owners.

Although these apps are often all you need to reveal a camera lurking on the network, the listed descriptions of some devices can be opaque. Sometimes all you get is a listing such as “generic device”, which really isn’t much help to anyone.

This is partly because of privacy settings imposed by the mobile app stores. Last year, for example, Google tightened its rules to prevent apps such as Network Analyzer collecting MAC addresses—a unique identifier contained within every device—that help such apps reveal the brand and type of device that’s connected to the Wi-Fi network.

That’s why I’d recommend upping your game and installing Fing. Fing does have free mobile apps that can reveal devices on the Wi-Fi network, but it also has a free PC and Mac app that isn’t bound by any of the MAC address restrictions imposed on the mobile apps.

This means Fing can create very detailed lists of every device connected to the Wi-Fi, if you’re able to connect your laptop to the rental property’s Wi-Fi or indeed your own home network.

As you can see below, it’s identified a Ring security camera on my own property, as well as the make and precise model of many other devices.

Fing does a great job of identifying devices on a Wi-Fi network

Barry Collins

If you pay for the Fing Starter subscription, which you can get for $2.99 on a month-by-month basis, it even includes a feature that specifically scans for hidden cameras and lists them in the app. This includes devices such as motion detectors and baby monitors, which are often used to eavesdrop on people.

Fing’s app includes a hidden camera finder

Barry Collins

It’s worth noting that Fing is still able to detect devices connected to the network even if the host has set up a “guest” profile on the Wi-Fi router, which means you can’t normally access other devices on the home network.

Again, these detectors aren’t 100% reliable and it’s possible rogue rental owners could use other means to collect footage from hidden cameras, such as cellular networks. But they might just help you find a camera that you didn’t know about.

Airbnb’s New Camera Rules

Before you confront or report an Airbnb owner about a camera you’ve discovered on their network, make sure you fully understand the new rules.

For example, the ban only applies to indoor cameras. It’s still permissible for Airbnb owners to fit external cameras or video doorbell systems. However, “hosts will be required to disclose the presence and general location of any outdoor cameras before guests book,” according to Airbnb’s statement.

“These cameras will also be prohibited from monitoring indoor spaces of a listing and are not allowed in certain outdoor areas where there’s a greater expectation of privacy, like an enclosed outdoor shower or sauna.”

Hosts are also still permitted to use decibel monitors to ensure that guests aren’t creating a disturbance or throwing parties, which are banned under the site’s rules. Such monitors cannot “record or transmit sounds or conversations and are only allowed in common spaces of listings,” according to Airbnb.

The revised policy takes effect on April 30, so if you’re renting an Airbnb property before that, indoor cameras in common areas are still permitted, provided they are disclosed on listings pages prior to booking.