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Renting an Airbnb comes with its share of risks, including the possibility that you're being monitored by your host using a hidden camera.
The practice of using hidden cameras is somewhat widespread — a recent report showed that thousands of Airbnb hosts were using closed Facebook groups to gossip about tenants and share security camera footage of them.
A cybersecurity expert has identified a simple trick anyone can use to find out whether your Airbnb host is monitoring you from afar, and shared the technique with Business Insider.
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Renting an Airbnb can be unpredictable — unlike hotels or long-term rentals, Airbnbs are managed by individual users and are largely unregulated.
Privacy-minded renters might worry about the possibility that their host is watching them discreetly using security cameras. The concern is well-founded — a recent report showed that thousands of Airbnb hosts were gathering in closed Facebook groups to gossip about guests and share embarrassing photos captured by security cameras.
Airbnb's community standards bar hosts from sharing guests' personal information, but don't stop hosts from monitoring their units with live feeds streamed by security cameras. And while most states have laws against secretly recording people, those wouldn't prevent hosts from monitoring their homes secretly without sharing the footage.
Internet-enabled security cameras are easy to find and relatively cheap, potentially allowing Airbnb hosts to watch a livestream of their unit on a phone or computer while they're away.
Alex Heid, chief research and development officer at SecurityScorecard, has developed a simple method for detecting whether an Airbnb host is watching guests live on a hidden camera. Heid shared the technique with Business Insider, as well as backup tricks to detect the hidden cameras.
Here's how to find out if your Airbnb host is discreetly watching you on a live security camera.SEE ALSO: Airbnb hosts reportedly used closed Facebook groups to gossip about guests and share lewd, personal information
First, find the WiFi router in your Airbnb unit.
Then, simply turn it off, either by unplugging it or using the power button.
Wait and see if you hear anything from your Airbnb host. If they contact you asking why the WiFi was turned off, they were monitoring the unit using some internet-connected device. "If nothing comes back you're probably alright," according to Heid.
"This has happened to me," Heid said. "One time I unplugged the router and [the Airbnb host] texted me and said, 'Hey, can you see why the WiFi went out?' And I was like, 'Why?'"
If you want to be especially cautious, you can also download an app that detects other devices on a WiFi network.
Apps like Fing let users check other wireless devices on a network.
Heid also recommends that Airbnb renters use a VPN, or a service that hides browsing data from the owner of a wireless network.
In some cases, hosts might have other reasons to monitor WiFi in the unit, like a home security system or internet-connected air conditioning. But turning off the WiFi is a good way to see if your hosts notice, and open the conversation.