Keep your guard up

You may think that spying is something that only effects professionals and that ordinary people don’t have to worry about it. Think again.

The Barker family from New Zealand travelled to Ireland on holiday and stayed in an Airbnb apartment as many people do these days. Fortunately the father worked in security and absentmindedly checked out the wi-fi signals in the apartment as he was trying to connect to the internet. He was horrified to find that there was a signal live streaming all the family’s activity in the apartment. He eventually tracked the signal to a tiny camera hidden in a smoke detector. This would be bad enough, but when the family informed Airbnb of what had happened, the company’s “trust and security” team investigated and then exonerated the host and dismissed the complaint! (even though the family provided snapshots of the live video feed.) Only when the Barkers took their story to the news agencies did Airbnb finally apologise and remove the offending host from their service.

The story should remind us all that we are never completely safe from being bugged – anywhere. We all know that our home computers can be accessed by hackers and the Snowden files revealed that the phone you can carry in your pocket can be remotely activated as a video camera and microphone. Imagine having someone listening in on every conversation where your phone has also been present.

There have been similar cases such as this involving spy cameras in other public locations (eg hotels and toilets) as well as in the private sector. It may not even be the owners of the location who are responsible as any geek can plant a bug in a room and have it send the results to a remote receiver.

Maybe we should all start taking device detectors on holiday with us?

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