When you are on vacation, you have a lot to worry about with the preparation, what to do and where to go. Just the airport alone is enough stress to send anyone over the edge. The last thing you need to worry about is cameras within your hotel room.
In this blog post, we will discuss how to prepare yourself for time off, and how to look for concealed cameras within your hotel room. For this article, we have highlighted an interview that originally appeared on SmarterTravel.com. In the article, a technical surveillance countermeasures and intelligence expert gives his expertise on how to look for a hidden camera.
There are essentially three primary methods for checking for a hidden camera: scanning of radio frequencies, lens detection, and physical search. Many handheld devices that do RF scanning and lens detection are available on the commercial market, with most costing less than $100. However, no single method is going to be 100 percent accurate.
RF scanning, for example, will only help in identifying a device if that device is actively transmitting. If the data is transmitted only at intervals, then an RF scanner will be fairly useless.
Lens detection is very effective if used properly, but it requires patience and proper technique. If you are too far from the lens, sweep the room too quickly or are just standing at the wrong angle from the lens, then you’ll likely miss seeing the lens when it reflects the light from your light source.
Physical inspection can be the most accurate method, but this requires both patience and access that you may not have. If you can’t get away with prying open smoke detectors, opening the backs of paintings, and possibly opening a section of a wall to see if anything is inside, then you won’t be able to complete a full and proper physical search.
When faced with these types of limitations, often it is best to utilize a hybrid of all three search methods to whatever extent you find possible. You may not be able to achieve 100 percent confidence that the space is clear of hidden devices, but you’ll be a lot closer than you were when you first walked into the room.
Where to look for a camera
The first step is to think logically about what someone would be interested in capturing on a hidden recording device.
Cameras typically need a clear view of the subject to get the best images. A visual scan of the room in key areas such as sleeping rooms, bathrooms, etc., may reveal clues that lead to the discovery of covert devices. For example, an unusually positioned object in the room may warrant a closer inspection. This was how an Airbnb guest found a camera concealed inside a motion detector that seemed out of place in a bedroom.
Bathrooms, bedrooms and office space/desks are very common targets. Areas, where computer screens are going to be visible, are especially sought after, as the camera may capture login passwords, bank account information, personal browsing habits and all sorts of other valuable information. An adequately installed device will leave little to no outward sign that it has been put in place. Most off-the-shelf hidden cameras are now so small that they can come prepackaged in common items that would appear innocuous in most settings.
Smoke detectors, alarm clocks, even electrical outlets, and power strips can have a complete audio/visual monitoring suite built in with room to spare. But even if the device itself is hard to detect, the activities of those responsible for the device may be more telling.
In hotel rooms, for example, if items continue to be placed in a particular location after a room is serviced, then that could be a sign that the item needs to be positioned that way so that a camera has a good angle of view. Of course, this could also just be the maid tidying up, so don’t immediately jump to full paranoia.
What to do if you find a hidden camera
Hiding cameras in hotel rooms or vacation rentals are illegal and also a violation of most rental companies’ policies.
So make sure you check a vacation rental listing carefully for any mention of a nanny cam in the living room before you make a reservation. If you do find one in your vacation rental, leave immediately and report it to the company.
If you encounter a hidden camera in a hotel room, immediately ask for a room change. If that doesn’t work turn objects (with suspected hidden cameras) such as radios, clocks, etc., around so that they face in a different direction. If that is not possible, cover the items with a towel.
When you shouldn’t check for a hidden camera
In certain countries (Russia and China top the list), it is highly likely the government intelligence services actively monitor hotels frequented by business travellers. Anyone they observe using search techniques to find hidden devices in their accommodations is likely to be branded as a hostile intelligence operative and treated accordingly. Bringing even the least expensive search devices into these countries is likely to land the traveller in hot water, sometimes before even leaving the airport. When you travel a little bit of prevention can help you through a world of potential problems. We hope that these tips will help to keep you safe when you are on vacation.