The use of secret cameras to spy on guests in rented accommodation has recently made the headlines, but to the security industry such tactics are nothing new. Surveillance devices can be used to target travelling businesspeople, politicians, activists, and journalists, among others. To help all travellers to stay safe while away from home, Kaspersky Lab security researchers have created a list of top security hacks for digital devices and information – using simple techniques and basic, readily available kit.
In April, a family discovered their activities were being livestreamed through a camera hidden in the living room smoke alarm of their rented cottage in Ireland – one of several recent examples of such activity. Secret surveillance appears to be a growing risk faced by travellers. Others include those targeting digital devices such as laptops and phones and the information stored on them. Kaspersky Lab security researchers have drawn on their own experience to share a list of travel security risks and show how users can address them in ways that are both practical and easy.
For example, to ensure that there are no hidden cameras or microphones in your hotel room or rental apartment, waiting to eavesdrop on you, the researchers recommend that you travel with a small tool (readily available online) that incorporates a radio frequency scanner as well as light-emitting diodes and a red glass.
This tool will enable you to find any sources that emit electromagnetic waves (most wireless bugs and cameras do this) and to look for hidden cameras. A camera lens reflects light significantly better than other surfaces do, so if you point light from the diodes at what appears to be a camera, and look toward it through the red glass, you’ll see a bright red dot.
You can also use your mobile phone to spot cameras that use infrared illumination, because cameras in mobile phones can detect infrared emissions. Bear in mind, however, that the infrared filter in some phones, such as iPhones, are too strong for this trick.
To avoid being caught by hidden wired microphones, you simply need to create some disruptive background noise. Running water from a tap or other sounds that can be easily produced using services such as Noisli ruin almost all recordings.
“As security researchers, we travel extensively and are always conscious of potential security threats. The headlines about spying on rental guests prove that secret surveillance is not just something you see in the movies; it’s happening in real life. Staying secure doesn’t have to involve high tech and expensive countermeasures – basic kit and common sense go a long way towards you keeping your digital gear and information safe, and you free to enjoy your vacation,” said Marco Preuss, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.
Other top tips shared by the researchers include:
- Never leave your belongings, including your devices, unattended – anywhere. Take all your gear with you when leaving your hotel room.
- Make sure your kit is password protected, and the information stored on them is encrypted. Devices with the latest versions of Android, and iOS device secured with a passcode, are encrypted by default, click here to learn how to turn on full disk encryption, aka BitLocker, for Windows. And here to learn how to turn on the same – FileVault – for macOS.
- Avoid the risks of insecure Wi-Fi by using a wired mouse and the integrated keyboard on your laptop.
- Learn how to spot a two-way mirror. They may be rare in real life, but they can exist. Place a finger on the surface of the mirror, and if there is a gap between the finger and its reflection, it’s a normal mirror. If there is no gap, the mirror could potentially be a two-way one.
Start using a VPN service such as Kaspersky Secure Connection to encrypt all sent and received traffic continuously, or only in situations when security is especially important. For instance, when you need to connect to an unsafe Wi-Fi network while staying at a hotel or renting an apartment