Security Archives - foXnoMad

Category: Security

How To Check For Hidden Cameras And Microphones In Your Vacation Rental, Hotel, Or Airbnb

Hidden cameras in hotel rooms and Airbnbs are much more common than we’d like to think but common enough that you should do a thorough surveillance sweep before settling in. Most people aren’t bug sweeping security experts though there are a number of lessons you can use from them to find concealed devices that could be recording you.

As you can see in the video above where I went through a rental that had devices hidden in it, knowing what to look for is as important as where.

The Threats

We tend to think of cameras first but hidden microphones can be trickier to detect since they don’t need a line of sight. A simple pen could be a microphone in disguise so don’t easily dismiss many common items. Another favorite for Airbnb owners are USB ports that plug into a wall. Those wall chargers can charge your phone but come with a hidden camera that can be very difficult to notice if you’re not looking for it.

Your own mind is working against you so be familiar with the common threats but don’t assume they’re the only ones. (Stuffed animals, alarm clocks, smoke detectors… there are many possibilities.) To be a good bug sweeper, you have to think creatively.

Visual Inspection

Hidden cameras need a line of sight to get footage. Start with the places someone might want to film, the bedroom, bathroom, and common areas. Look at the angles a lens would need to be placed to film the larger parts of rooms or sensitive areas (near a shower). Walk around, making a careful inspection before you unpack your bags.

airbnb rental

Take a note of shelves, vents, or any cracks in wood panels or otherwise dark hiding places that have a line of sight.

Scan The Network

Once you’ve completed your visual inspection, logon to the rental’s wifi network with your phone. Using Net Analyzer scan to see how many other devices are connecting to the network. Minus you phone and any obvious devices like a smart TV, be wary if there are many more devices than you can account for.

Also note any networks that have a very similar name, for example RentalWifi1 and RentalWifiPrivate. Separate wifi networks could be used to hide surveillance devices from the network you happen to be on and common names could be a clue more than one network is in use.

Now that you’ve narrowed things down visually and wirelessly, the next step is to use a bug sweeper.

Sweep Like A Pro

I’ve written about a consumer grade bug sweeper you can use and how to properly scan with one. Those of you who watched the video above know that these devices do work in real-world situations if used properly and with a careful eye.

Remember to check the policies of the rental you’re staying in and the service you’re using since many allow for common areas to be recorded. (Though they hardly advertise that fact.) Still if you end up finding any surveillance device, get in touch with the company and get as much evidence as you can through photos of your own.

As for your legal options, it’s still a grey area in many districts so be wary of any temporary accommodation, especially before you do a bug sweep.

Asking Demonstrators Why They Attended The Million MAGA March

The Million MAGA “Make America Great Again” March didn’t draw a million people to Washington D.C. but it did bring with it thousands who show the divide in the United States. Compared to the widespread party D.C. turned into after the election was called for Joe Biden, MAGA marchers were a demonstration of the ideological contrast in the nation.

I walked through the crowds, asking why people were attending the MAGA March – you can hear their replies in the video above. Since I published that video the reactions have been as divisive as the march itself. Some were upset that I didn’t counter the claims or add an opposing opinion.

I may go more in depth into the controversy on an upcoming foXoMad Podcast episode but these are pro-Trump supporters in their own words. They speak for themselves but depending on who’s listening it’s either disturbing or encouraging; a division which ultimately surprised me. It’s worth noting the demonstrators were more diverse than I expected, defiant, and as the evening wore on some turned to violence.

Some of you may have rather I not have made this video. Despite what many in the crowd think, on January 20th Donald Trump will no longer be president yet the march is a reminder that 72 million voted for him. A significant percentage of whom believe were it not for an election conspiracy Trump would have won a second term.

What It’s Like Visiting A Gun Show In America

There are over 60 gun shows in the United States over a given weekend and I attended one that takes place right outside of Washington D.C. The Nation’s Gun Show is a large expo where people can purchase firearms but there’s a lot more than just weapons which keeps bringing people back.

You can see my experience in the video above or read on.

Pandemic Interest

Gun sales have surged since the coronavirus pandemic and every state can regulate gun shows based on their individual mandates. In Virginia, where The Nation’s Gun Show takes place, masks were mandatory indoors and most in line outside were wearing them. Signs reminding people to social distance were conspicuous as were those saying “Enter At Your Own Risk” due to Covid-19.

the nation's gun show

The large halls inside the Dulles Expo Center gave people plenty of space when walking around – the show was busy but not crowded – but most of the congregating was around the gun vendor tables. In particular, around the semi-automatic gun vendor tables.

Looking Around

None of the guns were loaded – vendors or otherwise; there were signs stating not to bring loaded firearms inside – but a few visitors wearing bulletproof vests with rifles strapped to their backs. A bit unnerving at first if you’re not used to being around so many guns but after a short while that feeling wears off. Vendors (notably younger ones) taking apart guns for assembly demonstrations, answering questions about ranges, use, gun quarks… all of what you might expect at a gun show.

the nation's gun show

Surrounding that though were booths explaining the gun laws in various states, as well the regulations for Washington D.C. Cards were handed out in line explaining the gun laws in Virginia, where you can carry a gun, open-carry, concealed, what those terms mean.

Gun Culture

Looking back at you around the gun show are soldiers from the paintings of Civil War battles, America’s Founding Fathers with quotes about freedom and liberty underneath their portraits. As you move around the show floor with the crackle of tasers being demonstrated in the background, vendors come up and ask if you’re registered to vote.

The Republican banners around the voter registration booths, not to mention plentiful Donald Trump banners around, make it obvious who most of the vendors are supporting in any given election. After registering to vote, you can vote for whoever you want in an election, but the idea is to get as many people voting as possible. At The Nation’s Gun Show though, the biggest barrier to voting in the U.S. – registration – is made easy and extremely likely to mean a vote for a Republican candidate.

Revisiting The Show

The Nation’s Gun Show is a large 3 day event but it’s not all gun sales keeping it from recurring once a month on average. There’s a lot more than weapons on a sale here, it’s a community not too unlike other forms of fandom. Guns might get you through the door the first time but everything surrounding them back over and over again.

How Bluetooth Trackers Work To Find Your Lost Luggage, Wallet, And Other Valuables

Personal Bluetooth trackers are small plastic devices smaller than a credit card you can use to find lost keys and other valuables. You may be wondering how these devices work, whether they’re worth using, and some of their limitations.

Here’s how Bluetooth trackers work and how you can use them to find lost items.

The Hardware

There are a couple of manufacturers of Bluetooth trackers, the largest being Tile and Chipolo. These are small devices ranging from a simple coin-sized square to the credit card shaped solar-powered Ekster you place in your purse, backpack, basically anything you don’t want lost. The only setup required is to pair them with your phone, an easy process shown in the video above.

Manufacturers tackle batteries differently; Chipolo uses small replaceable batteries, and Tile has a trade-in program for example. In both cases, batteries last at least up to a year, if not longer. Otherwise the setup of these trackers is simple, typically with a single button to pair the device and a smaller emitter for beeping sounds. Most Bluetooth trackers are designed to with in either short and long ranges.

Short Range Use

Depending on the version of Bluetooth, typically these trackers have a physical signal range of roughly 50 meters (150 feet). In these cases, you can trigger an alert using your phone to sound the beeps on the tracker to help you find your keys, for example. The associated app with most trackers will also let you visually locate the tracker when you’re in Bluetooth range and the process works in reverse too – you can use the tracker to set an alarm on your phone so you can locate it.

What Happens When You’re Out Of Range?

You might be thinking by now, “well, I often lose things that aren’t within 50 meters of me,” what now? In these cases you’ll use the Bluetooth tracker’s app to mark it as lost. Once a tracker is marked as lost, it will then activate its anonymous code so that the tracker app on everyone’s phone will be on the lookout for it.

This happens without the knowledge of the other users. So when someone else in the Bluetooth tracking app network (i.e. another user) walks past your lost keys in a cafe, they won’t know that their phone sent a signal back with its location. Once that happens, you’re notified and hopefully you can get to your lost items.

Network Importance

Outside of the short Bluetooth range, the size of the network is important. Tile has the largest network with 26 million users, Chipolo is the second largest (both have subscription fees). What that means is the chance of another Tile or Chipolo user walking past your lost stuff is higher on those networks. Densely populated areas like cities obviously will have better user coverage but in rural areas your chances diminish quite a bit.

Still, a Bluetooth tracker can help you find your lost keys or be setup to alert you if you get out of a customizable short range to prevent you from forgetting your backpack at a cafe or airport gate.

PacSafe’s LS450 Backpack Is Ultra-Secure And Pretty Useable Too

Combining storage and security isn’t easy when it comes to something that needs to be as portable as a backpack. The MetroSafe LS450 Anti-Theft Backpack gets closer than most in a very capable backpack with security features – still a divide in usability you’ll have to navigate.

You can watch my full review of the MetroSafe LS450 in the video above or read on.

Bag Basics

Made by PacSafe, a company known for making secure travel gear, the LS450 is on the bigger side of 25 liters. There are three compartments, one main and two smaller organizational pockets on the front. You won’t find a traditional quick grab pocket on this backpack, mainly because of the fortified design. All of the zippers can be latched to the bag to prevent pickpockets, although you’ll have to get used to the few extra moments it takes to get into your bag as well.

The exterior is made of 210D nylon, with a slash-proof mesh underneath. Still, despite the extra padding, the LS450 remains light at only 840 grams.

Comfort Conversion

In some ways the LS450 is a very comfortable backpack to wear. The straps are soft and padded with a contoured back to keep your back cool. It’s here where some of the security features interfere with pure design. To prevent slash and grabs, PacSafe have hidden the straps of the LS450 in a protective cushion. Those cushions make it so adjusting the straps while you’re wearing the LS450 isn’t really feasible. Also, the material used on the straps is a bit sticky to clothing and may cause pilling.

A thicker band around your neck too isn’t entire comfortable during hot weather – again another security design trade-off. One trade that’s pretty easy to make is the right strap being lockable. Basically allowing you to lock the strap around a chair, table, or other stationary point preventing someone walking off with the bag when you’re distracted.

Security Aside

Overall, the LS450 on its own is a good backpack. It’s large enough to be a capable day pack for school or work commutes. You can find comparable bags for less without the built-in safety features but for travelers who don’t carry a lot of electronics, the MetroSafe LS450 would make for a good everyday carry – especially if you’re looking for the added protection it provides.

WiFox Automatically Gives You Airport WiFi Passwords On Your Phone Upon Arrival

wifox

WiFox, the app that contains the airport wifi passwords to over 1,300 airports, has been updated so those passwords now automatically appear on your phone upon arrival. In the biggest update to WiFox since its launch, the app now notifies you of the wifi network name and password when you’re in an airport. And of course, WiFox still works completely offline.

wifox ios app store     wifox google play android
Land And Connect

Imagine all the times you’re on a flight and land for a layover. You’ve probably had the experience of fiddling around trying to find network connections, see which ones might be authentic, figure out what the password might be… only to just make it to your next connection. WiFox Premium will, as soon as you land, give you the best network name and wifi connection password so you’re ready to get online once you’re in the airport. Again, all of this works completely offline, without the need for an Internet connection.

New Upgrades And Rating System

WiFox has also been improved with a new connection rating system. The passwords delivered to your phone are automatically sorted by connection reliability and strength so you’re always connected to the fastest networks.

WiFox Premium users can also see individual network ratings as well as add their own upgraded feedback, in addition to the real-time information verified from other travelers, pilots, and other reliable sources.

This new rating system already improves upon the previous generation. When I developed WiFox I wanted to make sure the passwords were updated in real-time but also were as accurate as possible.

Other WiFox Features

WiFox is now faster than ever and comes with a number of other useful features.

wifox app

  • Copy Passwords Directly – You can choose between several networks in an airport to use lounge and other passwords to paste directly into your phone’s settings.
  • Unlock Time Restrictions – Access points with time limits are also shown but WiFox shows you how to get around time-based restrictions.
  • Updated In Real-Time – WiFox works completely offline but updates password information and connection information once you’re online.

WiFox And WiFox Premium Available Now For iOS (Android Version Coming Soon)

WiFox is now available available on iOS devices (iPhone, iPad) for the special price of free on the App Store! You can upgrade to WiFox Premium within the app, which unlocks all of the features described above and more. Your feedback is important to me so please send any feedback or feature requests you have for future updates. Ratings on the App Store are also important, so if you’re happy with WiFox, I would appreciate your 5-star ratings!

I’ve appreciated your support for WiFox (and an independent developer like me!) since its launch and look forward to hearing from you when the latest version is in your hands. As always, travel smarter. -Anil P.

Download WiFox, Available on the App Store Here

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More

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