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How to find hidden cameras (2002) [pdf] (franken.de)
265 points by lainon on Feb 15, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 64 comments

Only some of this information remains relevant today to someone interested in "finding hidden cameras". For example, I found page 10 very interesting to read about; what is presented there would probably make for a very fun hackathon project or similar.

As for the info on RF detection, nope. Few things use PAL/NTSC now, mostly devices bought by people not doing research buying the tales spun by the cheaper spy shops. If you find something using analog video, I'd treat it as suspicious. If the device isn't obviously doing spy things, it's probably some completely forgotten-about system not connected to anything anymore.

You'd be better served doing analog Wi-Fi RF analysis - whether just figuring out "why is there a gigantic 2.4GHz/5.8GHz/etc signal specifically in the corner of this room", or even seeing whether the camera firmware is vulnerable to the WPA2 attacks. And that's hoping the device uses Wi-Fi; if it uses a LAN, your best bet may be an EM/RF finder (which AFAIK start at $900+ for a basic good one) to try and pinpoint the camera electronics, and hope you don't get distracted with random benign things like in-wall thermometers, chemical sensors, and whatnot.

As for modern camera size, I just did an image search for "phone camera module" and then "tiny camera module" and found items quite a fair bit smaller than what's shown in this PDF.

- This is apparently 1x1mm, and a cursory but careful examination suggests it's _not_ optical: http://www.awaiba.com/product/naneye/

- A bit more looking found this slightly more accessible random option: https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/1-12-CMOS-tiny-indust...

- I also found this generic "MC900A" camera that's very small, self-contained and spits out NTSC/PAL: http://spy.tips/shop/super-mini-520tvl-high-resolution-audio... (this is one of the random results, googling the model will find tons of this)

- A bit more searching found the TS5828 5.8GHz A/V transmitter; this is not _tiny_, but it most definitely is very small.

One of my rainy-day-when-I-have-more-money projects is to get a tiny camera like one of the ones above, a transmitter like the one above, and a tiny rechargeable battery, and see how compact I can make the result. I'm putting it off until I have more money because I know I'll obsess about it until it's _really, really small_...

FWIW, what I just described does already exist as a finished product. Here's a 2.4GHz version: https://www.selfdefensegearco.com/MiniWirelessSpyCamera.htm

This one really creeps me out https://www.amazon.com/Screw-Head-Mini-Hidden-Camera/dp/B014...

How often do you really pay attention to screws?

> How often do you really pay attention to screws?

I’d like to imagine someone install one of these in the middle of an otherwise clean white wall, where it’ll stick out like a sore thumb :p

I spent a short moment now looking around the office for the best spot a would-be creep could install a hidden camera. I realized two things:

- There ain't that many things with visible, people-facing screws these days.

- Even if you found one (e.g. a back of a LCD screen), you'd have to match the screw in size and color, or it would stick out.

I guess this method is best used when you control the entire object in which a screw-camera is to be embedded.

Somewhere on Amazon there is a screw camera that has a product photo of the camera installed on what appears to be a bathroom stall door. I can’t find it right now, but it totally blew me away that they’d be so blatant.

yeah and leds

I've had a look at the Naneye you linked - I couldn't find the reason why the camera would not be optical. Optical in the sense of "has an optical system with a detector that registers photons close to the visible spectrum" (in contrast to microwaves).

I can imagine it's got a pinhole and a CCD, which is why there have to be four powerful LEDs illuminating the vicinity for it to reach the 44fps framerate without everything being just noise.

I have N-scale model trains (1:160) and really wish I could get the iPhone's camera workings for purchase to put on a train.

Could you lay a better camera on a flatbed car and push that car from behind with an engine? So it would be an engineer's eye view. And get power from the rails or from batteries on another flatcar.

It still needs to be quite small, as there are realistically proportioned tunnels, railroad station halls, and trackside buildings a large camera will bump into.

I wind up with about 20mm vertically and 30mm horizontally to work with when you count the space used by the flatbed.

Sounds like it might be a good product for you or someone to come out with :-) A 10MP N-scale camera car.

What about a 2MP ESP8266-based Arducam? Lay it flat, use a tiny mirror to get the image ahead. Power it by the rails. Only slightly larger than a standard N-scale boxcar. http://www.arducam.com/world-smallest-esp8266-wifi-camera/

I'm an old model RRer myself. Hobby was just too expensive though.

Look at stuff for FPV drones, you may find something suitable. There are small cameras offering decent quality, e.g. Runcam Split 2.

I've found a lot like that one but they're all pretty low quality - that one's two megapixel. Far cry from the iPhone's 12, despite being physically larger.

You're looking to take still photos? Because the 2 megapixel one would take video at 1080p.

I got a little SQ-11 camera with the same two-megapixel res and it generated truly awful imagery. I suspect the higher megapixel cameras generate better video even if they're squishing the data down to 1080p frame sizes.

But a LAN isn't the physical counterpart of Wi-fi? you mean (ethernet) cable?

No idea but in any case I'd imagine SDN dongle could work as an effective RF sleuthing tool (wireless protocol known or not).

Nowadays, you don't need to hide them anymore. Everyone is recording everything and uploading it to everyone.

I wonder how many videos I have appeared in as a background character of someone's Facebook video. All that data is waiting to be processed one day so the schedule of my whole life is pieced together statistically from the mountains of raw data accumulated over the decades by companies.

I was thinking about this today as I went through my browsing history from half a year ago. I'm not too worried. If anyone had access to that data they still wouldn't know what I was up to, what adventures I had, or even anything significant about me as a person. Cross-referencing to any posts I had made wouldn't help much, especially as I'm a big troll and write whatever nonsense I want. Maybe they would know some of my preferences back then, but those have changed by now. I think the problem is a lot of people lead ritualized, static lives, carrying around the same identities and ego structures for years and years. Such people are easily predictable, and controllable.

I miss Flickr. I had an idea to do a regular scrape of Flickr using their geo API endpoint, based on where I had been on a particular day - to see if I ended up in any background shots.

But it's just not used often enough anymore for public photos; everyone's shots go to the Google Maw or the Apple Pit, never to be seen by the public.

I assume you already avoid google products, because they know where we are all day regardless of video.

You may use night vision gear to detect the ones with IR illumination. https://youtu.be/gEWniEhtE2k

Or you could use a camera of your own. Remember 90s when all tape cameras would show blips of light in front of IR remotes?

My Pixel 2 camera seems to reveal IR light (at least, IR in high concentrations) in captured images when reflected off a dark surface. (Not sure if relevant. But I was surprised to notice that.)

Interesting. Recent Airbnb problems with hidden cameras makes me wish for a product that could detect hidden cameras (non cia level). Is that in any way possible?

Gut reaction, no it's impossible. But other problems I thought were nigh unsolvable have turned out to be not so I'd love to be proven wrong.

I'm disappointed at the slow progress of consumer security cameras. They show a tiny CMOS cube camera from ~2000. Today I can't find anything that small or that cheap online (didn't look too hard) and certainly not in the local bricks and mortar surveillance camera shop. Why aren't tiny cellphone-like cameras with integrated wifi or LAN everywhere? Why are non-hidden ones still outputting analog TV signal?

People who fly FPV order these cameras all the time.

This one is about $8 https://www.banggood.com/600TVL-8_0MP-14-2_8mm-CMOS-FPV-170-...

How about this one for $22 with a 5.8GHz transmitter https://www.banggood.com/Eachine-TX01S-NTSC-Mini-5_8G-40CH-2...

> Why are non-hidden ones still outputting analog TV signal?

Those are available because a segment of the market still wants new cameras for their old systems. If you don't belong to that segment, various other options are available as well: SDI (digital-over-coax, good upgrade path from an analogue system), Ethernet, ...

Because the electronics are very simple for analog video. Notice how easy it is for an Arduino to bit-bang an NTSC video output.

And if you want low latency? Unless you look for expensive equipment, analog is way lower latency.

Cameras are getting so small and with such a good resolution that the safest thing to do is to assume that you are being recorded the 100% of your time. Again, privacy is a thing of the past. I am sorry George https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ox-shlDXKO4

The panopticon is complete, and the entire world, the prison. When the prisoners feel they are always being observed, they will stay on their best behavior.

I like to play a game that I call "Find the Camera". You can play it anywhere.

Google nonlinear junction detector

How much do those things cost?

I don't know, but Wikipedia has a good example of a NLJD countermeasure introduced in the 60s:


(specifically the CIA's SRT-107: http://www.cryptomuseum.com/covert/bugs/ec/srt107/index.htm)

As an aside, the entire website for that second link is pretty interesting.

1688.com is your friend

Can't you use infrared cameras like the FlirOne and just search for things that are weirdly hot? Most cameras should generate a lot more heat than its surroundings.

Analogue wired cameras come in at a few dozen mW. And those aren't actually low power or anything, I bet you can get cameras using far less than that.

Cameras with built-in DSP and WIFI probably won't fit into that power envelope, though.

Yes, but that requires an expensive far-IR imager.

One would need to look up the type of battery and how long the camera runs on that.

I think it's a good idea, but especially in cases of non-continuous monitoring (e.g. 1 FPS or way less) with modern low power electronics this could become quite difficult.

That's the best idea I have heard so far.

Better yet, would be a law passed that outlaws photographing people without their consent, at least while at work. I heard France has strict laws that protect privacy.

I've never liked my picture taken without my consent.

Assuming your work takes you anywhere outside, or in a vehicle, or in any public area, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

You can't reasonably expect someone photographing a public place to announce to everyone they're about to take a photograph, or get a waiver from everyone, or blur the faces of everyone who they can't get to sign.

Naive question: are entities allowed to film you on private property without any kind of warning or sign that they are doing so?

In the U.S. it depends on state laws, and in the absence of any state laws wether you had a reasonable expectation of a right to privacy. If there's a hidden camera on the factory floor, that's probably fair game. If there's a hidden camera in a bathroom stall, that's probably illegal.

I can't give a complete answer, but in the US there is a notion of "expectation of privacy"—you're not allowed to film (or watch in person!) where someone has an expectation of privacy. This definitely includes changing rooms and bathrooms. Does it include the bedroom of a rented house? Probably. The living room? I don't know, but you could probably argue that. A cube farm in an office building? No expectation of privacy. That creepy-ass camera (can't find a link) under employee desks, pointed at their chair and coincidentally at their crotch, to track whether they're at their desk? Almost certainly violates expectation of privacy, because crotch-shot.

Anyway, that's one of the search terms you'll want to use if you research this.

As far as I know it heavily depends on where you are. Obviously country by country, but also within the US it can be different per state or per city.

Then there's the difference between a live camera and a recorded camera.

Mostly no, in Europe.

Interesting, but quite infuriating use of the not-really-a-word "intransparent".

It's a proper word in german though

I used to be in the R&D department for a large company that included a major movie studio. They wanted to develop a system that would find people filming the screen in theaters.

The system worked by exploiting the fact that all cameras at that time, including phone cameras, had a IR filter over the sensor that was a retro-reflector at IR wavelengths.

Behind the screen at three separated places were three IR sources and detector cameras.

If the detector cameras at the same points as the sources saw a bright dot from any two of the three locations that was coming back from the illuminator (the light was modulated so we could determine if it was ours) we knew we had a camera!

The system worked, but deployment in theaters never happened in a big way, other than a few theaters used for screenings in LA.

Pretty sure we worked at the same place. There's a commercial copy of that device now.

Yes we did! How have you been?

Wouldn’t that also pick someone up who had indiscreetly pull up their phone to check a text message?

If it's the kind of screening I've been to (e.g. Disney D23) then you are instructed not to take your phone out for any reason during the screening.

Probably, but a person trying to CAM a movie would have it out all the time, not just for a brief moment.

Surveillance cameras in malls and shops are often installed in places where they are easy to spot because they are an effective deterrent. Even if they are nothing more than decoys. I wouldn't expect many surveillance cameras to be hidden away from the view because their main function is to discourage crime from happening, not recording it.

There are many reasons not to ever use Airbnb, this is just one of them.

I'm not sure what this has to do with Airbnb in particular. It seems like something that would be an equal risk however you went about renting a place.

Arguably it's less likely in a hotel, although apparently not in a motel: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/04/11/gay-talese-the...

J. Random AirbnbHost has a much wider range of likely utility functions than your average large hotel corporation.

That's not really a solution to the problem posed, the commentor was just providing examples of situations cameras wouldn't be big enough to detect visually

Could you train a neural net to look for suspicious objects with optimal viewing conditions on rooms?

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