How to Detect a Covert Wireless IP Camera

Some wireless cameras have a tell-tale power cord.
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There are plenty of ways to hide a wireless IP camera in any room. Finding such a camera may be relatively simple or exceedingly difficult, depending on the skills of the person who put it there. If you have access to the Wi-Fi router, this can give you some useful clues, but until you actually see a camera, you won't know if one is there or not. Finding one camera, of course, doesn't mean there aren't others.

1 Physical Inspection

In some cases, the fastest way to detect a hidden IP camera is simply to look around the room. Begin by looking at the electrical outlets. Many IP cameras need to be plugged into an outlet, so tracing electrical cords may lead you to a hidden camera. Examine shelves, including spaces between books. If a closet door is slightly ajar or a cardboard box appears to be conspicuously placed in the corner of the room, they may be concealing a camera. If you don't find a camera, however, that doesn't mean there isn't one there. In addition to IP cameras, spy cameras, or nanny cams, can be hidden inside everyday objects that would require close scrutiny to discover.

2 Watching the Router

Lights on different routers can mean different things, but they all have something in common that can help you detect unknown devices connected to them, including covert IP cameras. If you turn off all of the known devices connected to a router -- like computers, smartphones and game consoles -- there should be no traffic on the network. In this case, the lights on a router are normally on or off, or they flash in a slow and steady rhythm as the router polls the network for new connections. If the lights on the router begin to flash quickly in bursts, something on the network is sending or receiving data, which could indicate an IP camera. Like a physical inspection, however, not detecting a camera doesn't mean there isn't one nearby. An IP camera may be using a router you don't see, like in a different room, a neighbor's house or even that mysterious black van parked across the street.

3 Logging Into the Router

If you have access to the router's admin panel, you can usually see a list of all of the devices connected to the network. This depends on the router model, but the status or wireless section of the admin panel usually lets you browse connected devices, which are displayed with either an IP address or their MAC address. Count the number of connected devices and compare that to the known devices on the network. For example, if you have one computer and one smartphone connected to the network, but the router shows three connected devices, the process of elimination tells you that there is one unknown device connected, which may or may not be a hidden camera. Adding or changing the network password will prevent the unknown device from connecting.

4 Hidden Camera Detectors

A hidden camera detector can identify most cameras that might be in your vicinity. With most detectors, you look through a viewfinder and press a button as you scan the entire room. The camera detector emits a red light that reflects off of any camera's sensor. Through the viewfinder, you see the sensor as a steady red light. Inexpensive detectors have a range of only about 10 feet, while higher-priced models can detect cameras up to 50 feet away.

A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines throughout Canada and the United States.