If you’re scared of hidden cameras in your Airbnb, Baidu has an app for that

Baidu and Qihoo 360 are the latest Chinese tech companies offering ways to find hidden cameras, a prevalent problem in China.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

By now, most of us have heard those stories about hidden cameras in hotels and Airbnbs. They are definitely real. Now there’s now an app that will help you ferret out hidden cameras in your room… if they’re connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

Chinese tech giant Baidu launched an app last Sunday called “Privacy Protection Special Version.” The name itself doesn’t reveal much, but Baidu Security says the detection tool will be able to find any spy cameras connected to a Wi-Fi network with the simple tap of a button.

One of China’s three tech titans (it’s the B in BAT), Baidu is effectively the country’s Google. It’s China’s biggest search engine, and is now investing heavily in AI and self-driving cars.

Baidu Security’s researchers found that most spy cameras use similar technology. Peeping Toms often choose a tiny Wi-Fi-enabled camera that can be controlled remotely using an app or other software. After looking at the internet protocols used by these Wi-Fi cameras, Baidu developed an app that uses this information to detect cameras after connecting to the same Wi-Fi network.

This means you won’t be able to pinpoint exactly where a camera is hidden. But if a camera in your room is streaming video out over the hotel Wi-Fi network you’re connected to, this new app will presumably be able to let you know.

Baidu presented Privacy Protection Special Version at a hacking event in Shanghai — the same one where a security team from tech giant Tencent also managed to break into smartphones by using fingerprints left on a drinking glass.

Other types of camera detection apps have been around for a while. Most of them rely on detecting infrared light or electromagnetic fields, but Baidu says they’re not always reliable.

Professional equipment for detecting cameras and bugs would be much more reliable, but ordinary people aren’t buying and carrying around such equipment when they go on vacation.

The lack of a reliable way to detect hidden cameras has become a growing concern. Cameras hidden in Airbnbs have been popping up across the US and other parts of the world, but China has already had numerous scandals related to hidden cameras.

This year, an Airbnb guest who happens to be a security expert found a camera hidden in an extra hole in a Wi-Fi router. Another woman discovered a hidden camera in a fitting room in a Uniqlo store.

Just in October, three separate incidents involving hidden cameras made headlines across the country. This includes an office building in Shandong province that installed 16 hidden cameras to track employees, including in the changing room.

The lack of a reliable way to detect hidden cameras has become a growing concern. Cameras hidden in Airbnbs have been popping up across the US and other parts of the world, but China has already had numerous scandals related to hidden cameras.

This year, an Airbnb guest who happens to be a security expert found a camera hidden in an extra hole in a Wi-Fi router. Another woman discovered a hidden camera in a fitting room in a Uniqlo store.

Just in October, three separate incidents involving hidden cameras made headlines across the country. This includes an office building in Shandong province that installed 16 hidden cameras to track employees, including in the changing room.

This article first appeared in Abacus News.