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How to spot hidden video surveillance cameras and protect yourself against spying

Video surveillance in good hands is an excellent tool for ensuring the safety of people, property, and territory, as well as for optimizing work processes, learning how to serve your clients better, and other positive things! However, when it falls “to the dark side”, video surveillance, like many other tools, becomes an instrument of evil, contrary to its original purpose. Today, we want to talk about one of these wrongful uses of video surveillance: hidden cameras that film their victims without their knowledge or consent.

Now, let’s make it clear right away: in many countries, covert video surveillance is completely prohibited or is possible only with the clear consent of the people caught in the frame. We can find a few countries where hidden video surveillance without consent may be allowed in public places, citing the fact that a person in such places cannot expect privacy. But there are probably no countries in the world that would allow covert filming of people in places where they traditionally expect a high degree of privacy: in a bedroom, bathroom, or fitting and changing rooms.

Unfortunately, that fact doesn’t stop some individuals who proceed to secretly film unsuspecting victims – probably due to their false assumption that it would be very hard to catch them red-handed and make them face repercussions. From time to time, outrageous stories pop up in our newsfeed about hidden cameras found in toilets, bedrooms or bathrooms on Airbnb, guest houses, hostel or hotel rooms, or other places of short-term stay. Statistically, as many as 11% of guests of various rental properties find hidden cameras. And that’s just the ones that have been found!

This raises the question, ‘How do I spot hidden video surveillance cameras and protect myself against spying’? We hope that the tips gathered in this article will help!

  Fraudster can watch hidden cameras remotely

If you are wondering how to detect hidden cameras and prevent villains from watching you, our article will give you some tips



First of all, it’s important to get to know the “weapon of the enemy”. Let’s take a closer look at what hidden cameras are, how they look and how they function.

  Conventional CCTV cameras are rarely used for secret recordings.

Regular CCTV cameras are quite easy to spot because they are not designed to be discreet

1. Size and power supply
Regular CCTV cameras are hard to miss: they are large, require a power supply and some kind of network infrastructure to transmit/save the captured image. They are usually installed in a position that provides the best angle to capture what they need while not getting in the way of people moving around at the same time. You can usually see them in a ceiling corner, or at least at some height above human head level.

So if an offender were to decide to use an ordinary CCTV camera for secret surveillance, it would be quite easy to spot just by its wires and hard-to-hide size, which would require significant camouflage. Even if a small webcam was placed in a flower pot with a shaggy plant, you could still see it if you looked closely or moved the plant.

Unfortunately, more often than not, bandits prefer to use special spy micro-cameras instead, some of which can be as small as the size of a pinhole. Such miniature devices are difficult to detect by wires because they can be powered by a small battery. Even though it requires systematic replacement, it can generally work for quite a time between ‘maintenance sessions’, which gives a villain who installed it the chance to come and replace it at a safe time.

In addition, given enough time for installation, crooks can organize rather inconspicuous, skillfully disguised wiring. Therefore, it’s not recommended to hope that you will notice a hidden camera with a “naked eye”. Yet, undoubtedly, even basic knowledge about the structure of such cameras can aid in detecting hidden surveillance, as you will know what to look for.

2. Scenery
Another important thing is to understand the purpose of hidden video surveillance. It’s both easy and not at the same time: in most cases, it’s nudity that the scoundrels are looking for, yet it might be some other personal or intimate information. Knowing what the villain wants to get on tape helps to understand where they could place a camera to do this. Think about this: perhaps the most discreet way to hide the camera would be somewhere on the floor (like, for example, in the station of the robot vacuum cleaner) since people rarely carefully look at what they have to bend over for. But with such placement, it wouldn’t be possible to film what is going on on the bed, or really anything beyond the legs, as the “view” is mostly blocked – in other words, that would be too hard to organize. So usually, perverts who install hidden cameras choose to put them in such a way as to “look” straight at a dressing room, at the area in front of a shower stall where clothes are usually taken off, or at a small angle a little from above to get a look at the bed. However, some creeps are more afraid of being caught than the others, so they may be content with a rather limited, indirect view of the ‘object’ instead – after all, sometimes cameras get found in a toilet seat ring or a shower head!

  Camera in a flower pot

It is common to place a hidden camera in a flower pot, as the branches of the plant hide the camera from accidental detection.

3. Image transfer
Likely, it’s not enough for a criminal to know someone is being filmed in a vulnerable state when they don’t suspect anything. They probably want to see it too. That’s why it’s also important to get an idea how they could do that part as well.

Hidden cameras (as well as non-hidden ones) can work with a video stream in two ways:
a) save recordings on the camera side to its built-in memory card, or
b) broadcast the video stream somewhere to another receiving device – a smartphone or a computer – where it can be viewed in real time or recorded to a disk or some other storage.

In the first case, the creep will have to go back for the camera to retrieve recordings, same as photos or videos are transferred to computers from modern photo cameras. This may seem dangerous, but if the villain is the owner of the rented accommodation, they can do this without the threat of being caught when the guests leave after their stay.

In the second, more common case, hidden cameras broadcast everything they ‘see’ via the Internet or inside the “home” network. The criminal connects to the stream and can watch or save pictures and videos. This option allows attackers to remain undetected longer, since they do not need to appear in person to obtain recordings. However, on the bright side, cameras must be connected to the network in such case – most often via Wi-Fi or even Bluetooth – so they expose themselves and are usually visible to a network device scanner. We will talk about this below, in the paragraph “HOW TO DETECT HIDDEN CAMERAS: STEP 3. USE SPECIAL APPLICATIONS”.

As they say, “Knowledge is power.” Armed with knowledge of hidden cameras’ looks and peculiarities, their usual disguises and give-away signs, where they are located, and what conditions are required for their operation, you increase your chances to spot hidden video surveillance cameras and protect yourself against spying.



Unfortunately, hidden cameras come in a million different shapes, often mimicking everyday objects such as an air freshener, a power bank, a dummy socket, or just a spot or hole in the ceiling or a wall – so it’s impossible to pinpoint specific objects to look for (or be at ease about) when you’re scanning the area for hidden surveillance. Truly, sometimes scoundrels get impressively creative.

The most common sign of freshly installed covert surveillance in a location known to you – for example, in your dorm room – is the appearance of an “extra” object, of sufficient size and usually with an excellent viewing angle.

If we are talking about a room that is unfamiliar to you – for example, a room in a hotel or hostel, a WC stall in a mall – while we cannot identify “new” objects there (because we have not been there before), you should just pay attention to any logically “extra” items that simply seem unusual, inappropriate for the setting, or strange in some other way. Below, we will give a set of tips on how to search for hidden cameras.



Start searching for hidden video surveillance cameras with a visual inspection of the room. As we discussed earlier, cameras have certain needs (a good viewing angle, lens size, and sometimes power), so it’s worth paying attention to items that are positioned “too well” to capture your intimate moments, electrical appliances, and just for everything that seems “out of place” or strange.

As a rule, covert filming in a familiar place begins with the emerging of a new object, which is often even subconsciously perceived as pretentious, as if it were an extra, alien object. A teddy bear lying super evenly in a chair that stands somehow strangely in the middle of the room. An air freshener, which, for some reason, was placed next to the outlet. Old-fashioned alarm clock on a shelf. A strange, huge frame for a generally unremarkable painting (or, conversely, a painting with a plot). An incomprehensible hole in the wall opposite the shower stall or in the ceiling. In a familiar place, it’s easy to notice something strange, some kind of change, if you look closely. The difficulty is that in a familiar place, we don’t always have a reason to look closely, because for many, it is a place where they come to relax, where we allow ourselves to relax and not be vigilant, just minding our own business.

If you find yourself in an unfamiliar place – for example, in a hostel – then it is both easier and more difficult for you to detect hidden cameras at the same time. On the one hand, you cannot compare what was and what has become and recognize a recently added extra item, but on the other hand, in an unfamiliar place, you can immediately inspect the room for the presence of strange objects. As described above, you need to pay attention to objects that are “in the best position” to capture something interesting – in front of the bed, shower or changing area. Alas, sometimes cameras are found even in the toilet, built into the flush cistern, so it’s worth checking this room too.

It is better to repeat the visual inspection in the dark: some cameras (especially those that were not originally intended for covert filming) have a light that blinks or is constantly on and becomes more visible in the dark. The attacker might not know or forget about this feature, or he might hope that by the time it gets dark enough to see this light, you will already be asleep.

If something suspicious is discovered, it is also recommended to conduct a physical examination – pick up a strange object (if possible) to touch and take a closer look.

  Hidden camera in a teddy bear

Hidden cameras are so tiny that they can even fit in the eye of a teddy bear.



Continuing the topic of night inspection, it is also recommended to turn on a flashlight (for example, on a mobile phone) and slowly walk around the room, illuminating it from different angles. Since there are no cameras without a lens, this method can help detect reflections from the camera lens, but you need to understand that to do this, you need to shine the light on the lens at the “correct” angle. Since we don’t know where the hidden camera is located, we can’t calculate the angle, so it’s important to shine the light everywhere at different angles. You need to be careful since secret surveillance cameras are truly microscopic and, accordingly, their reflection is also barely noticeable. If you see a strange reflection somewhere, you can turn on the light, take a closer look, and explore this place or object.

  How to detect hidden cameras in the bathroom

Hidden cameras are often found in bathrooms, showers, toilets – where there is an opportunity to film a person naked



Another way to detect hidden cameras and protect yourself from secret filming is to use special applications for finding hidden cameras, which can be found and downloaded in application catalogs (for example, Google Play Market for Android or AppStore for iPhone). Of course, there is no secret technology available to these apps that can magically tell you for sure whether there are hidden cameras in a room or not, but it could be one of a set of checks. Using such applications, you can scan a room for the presence of an infrared camera signal that is invisible to the human eye, which some cameras have. Some apps also use the phone’s magnetic sensor to search for devices (including cameras) nearby based on magnetic activity, or use artificial intelligence to help notice the glare and reflections we mentioned in the last paragraph. But most often, such applications scan a Wi-Fi network, find devices connected to it, and use their knowledge base to identify cameras, even if they are renamed and disguised as other network devices that you do not understand. This is a fairly effective method because, as we discussed above, the attackers who installed the camera probably do not want to be satisfied with the mere fact that the cameras are installed but want to receive video recordings or even an online broadcast (real-time video stream), so these materials must somehow be transferred to them. Devices connected via Bluetooth can also be scanned and detected similarly. You likely won’t be able to influence hidden camera activity in this way, but you will be aware of their presence and can focus more diligently on finding them.

Since the applications are mostly paid, you can also find instructions on the Internet on how to analyze network traffic yourself, without an application to find hidden cameras.


You should also approach mirrors in unfamiliar hotel rooms or other rental spaces with caution, as it happens that the “mirror” built into the wall actually turns out to be a window with a one-way mirror coating (yes, like in interrogation rooms in films), for which there is a niche from where you can be watched or filmed. This is only relevant for mirrors on the wall that cannot be removed, that is, the first step is to try to remove the mirror to make sure that this is not the case. If your place of residence has a non-removable mirror, experts recommend pressing your face against it and covering your sides with your palms to look deep – often in such cases you can see a little “through the looking glass”, that is, see a piece of the room behind this window.

  Mirrors can pose a risk of secret filming and video surveillance

Behind a non-removable mirror in a hostel, there may be a niche from which secret surveillance is carried out



If, unfortunately, your fears are confirmed and the presence of hidden video surveillance is discovered at your place of stay (no matter using an application or visual inspection), you must act without panic. Despite the illegality of secret filming and your understandable indignation, destroying someone else’s property is highly discouraged. Foremost, it is advisable to film your findings on your phone so that you have evidence. If the action takes place in a hotel room (although the higher the level of the hotel, the less chance of encountering a similar situation), at a minimum you need to contact the reception desk and report the incident, demanding that you be moved to another room, because there are no guarantees that no more cameras are still there that you just haven’t discovered yet. Of course, the best solution would be to change the location, because there is no guarantee that there are no cameras in other rooms, although you need to understand that hidden cameras could be placed both with the instigation of the management of this establishment and without their knowledge – for example, by some cunning past guest.

Be sure to leave a review on public portals with this information to warn others who may become victims and should exercise caution. When staying in foreign countries, you can contact the embassy for the same purpose. If possible, especially in your “home” country, it would also be good to contact the police so that they can investigate – especially if you discover that the found camera does not transmit the image over the network, but writes to the built-in memory card, or if it is powered by a battery, that is, in cases where the attacker can be caught red-handed when they show up to service the camera. However, it is advisable to take such measures if you are confident in your safety. In cases where you cannot leave such a room, then listen to the advice in the next paragraph.

It happens that during a quick or even thorough inspection you do not find hidden cameras, but something still confuses you. In such cases, it is recommended to play it safe and take basic precautions. You can simply obscure a suspicious object with another object, thus blocking its viewing angle. You can disconnect all devices that you do not intend to use from the power supply: TV, lamp, etc. In the bathroom, you can curtain or cover any embarrassing objects that you think might be camera lenses.

As you can see, detecting hidden cameras is not always easy, but we hope that the tips listed in this article will help you protect yourself from secret filming and foil the plans of attackers. And for regular video surveillance, we recommend the Xeoma video surveillance program. It’s worth warning everyone who gets into the frame about the presence of cameras, because this will also help to avoid problems and prevent acts of vandalism, crime, and entry into prohibited territory. More information about open video surveillance can be found on the Xeoma website.

May 16, 2024

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