Never Forget to Do This Before Undressing in a Hotel Room, Experts Say
Experts warn it's the only way to avoid a potentially major invasion of privacy.
Even though it can be hard to recreate all of the comforts of home while you're on the road, feeling safe while traveling is a top priority. But even if you've booked yourself a nice, reputable place to stay, there could be hidden dangers awaiting you, even after you swipe your key card and lock your door. If you want to avoid a potentially major invasion of privacy, there's one thing you should always do in your hotel room as soon as you arrive. Read on to see what experts say is a vital step for any traveler.
You should always check your hotel room or rental house for hidden cameras when you arrive.
Whether we're using it to capture memories or research locations, technology has changed how we plan travel and can shape experiences along the way. But according to experts, such advances have also made it easier than ever for unsavory types to invade your privacy. That's why they always recommend checking your hotel room or Airbnb rental for hidden cameras as soon as you arrive.
While it may not be the most pressing safety issue on the road, it's surprisingly more common than you might think: According to a 2019 survey by real estate company IPX1031, 11 percent of respondents reported finding a hidden camera in their Airbnb. "One of the reasons this is happening is because of the ready availability of low-cost camera technology," Jack Plaxe, security consultant at Guidepost Solutions, told Reader's Digest, adding that small, easily hide-able cameras are readily available on sites like Amazon for less than $100.
It's best to check certain types of furniture or devices in the room, especially if they seem oddly placed.
Cameras have become smaller and easier to secretly stash, but it's still not impossible to find them. Typical hiding places usually include lamps, power adapters, outlet or light switch covers, smoke detectors, thermostats, vents, telephones, alarm clocks, TVs, TV-related items like DVD or video game consoles, as well as other furniture like desks, mirrors, and picture frames, Paul Koblitz, managing director of technical services at cybersecurity firm TrustedSec, tells Reader's Digest. This is especially true for any strangely placed furniture, decor items such as plants or a lamp facing an odd direction, unique-looking shower heads, small holes in the wall, or reflective surfaces hiding cameras underneath a two-way mirror.
"Cameras need three things to be effective: line of sight, reliable power, and either a network connection or internal device storage," Koblitz tells Reader's Digest. "Because of that, cameras are usually hidden in places that can conceal the device as well as any necessary wiring."
Eerily enough, this can also include a feature in almost every hotel room: front door peepholes that can be exploited using a camera and a reverser. "Sports reporter Erin Andrews was victimized in this manner a decade ago, and she won a multi-million-dollar settlement in court," Mike O'Rourke, CEO of security consultancy Advanced Operational Concepts, tells Reader's Digest, adding that it's best to cover your peephole up when you check-in.
You can find hidden cameras by using your phone's camera and flashlight.
Now that you know where to look, another simple tool can help locate any hidden cameras. According to a viral TikTok posted by cyber security expert Marcus Hutchins, all it takes is searching any suspicious items in your hotel room using the flashlight and front-facing selfie camera on your phone, which can pick up a particular reflection from a camera lens your eyes may not notice otherwise.
"The first thing you're going to want to look for is devices that are conveniently placed where people want to look," Hutchins says while pointing out a smoke alarm placed above a bed. "Now, one way to see if the device is a camera is to shine a bright light at it. If you hit a camera lens, it's going to get a blue-ish reflection."
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You can also use apps to search for hidden devices and cameras on WiFi networks.
Technology has made it easier to spy on unsuspecting guests, yet it can also help you find out if anyone is watching you. So long as you have access to the WiFi network and password where you're staying, apps such as Fing can make searching even more straightforward.
"It will log on to that network, and it will actually give you a listing of all the devices currently listed on that network," Thomas Ham, owner of Spy Catchers LLC, a professional technical surveillance countermeasures company, tells local Huntsville, Alabama ABC affiliate WHNT. "It tries its best to give you an idea of what each device is. Whether it's a cell phone IP, cameras, things of that nature."
Experts also point out that while the overall likelihood of coming across a device is relatively low, it can never hurt to put your mind at ease by performing a quick scan of your temporary digs. "It's not paranoia; it's relaxed alertness," O'Rourke told The Washington Post.