Airbnb is a great service for those looking to rent a spare room in an apartment or even an entire apartment or house for a short period of time. Many travelers use it regularly if they don’t prefer staying at a hotel or if they just find a cheaper option. It turned out to be a bad option in this instance for Airbnb user Andrew Barker who found a hidden surveillance camera in his Airbnb rental after scanning its Wi-Fi network.
Barker works in IT security so he obviously knew what he was doing. CNN reported that once the family had unpacked, Barger scanned the house’s Wi-Fi network which revealed a camera and a live feed. They were able to track down the camera from the angle of the feed and found that it was hidden in what seemed to be a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector.
Nealie Barker then posted an image on Facebook which showed the location of the camera in the living room. The family got a little cheeky with their discovery by taking a photo in which they all look directly at the hidden camera. Andrew Barker had used Android apps for network and port scans on the house’s network. This revealed that Port 80 was open and as soon as he connected his browser to it, the video feed popped up. The family later moved to a hotel and contacted both Airbnb and the property host.
It’s unclear why the host had the camera there in the first place, whether it was to monitor the guests in real-time or for capturing audio. The host initially hung up on them but contacted them later and said “The camera in the living room was the only one in the house.” Nealie Barker told CNN that Airbnb’s response left a lot to be desired. Customer service reps didn’t seem to grasp the seriousness of the issue. They were treating it like a canceled booking,”
The report added that Airbnb suspended the listing temporarily and promised that it would investigate the matter. When Airbnb was contacted two weeks again by Barker, she was told that the host was “exonerated” and that the listing was reinstated. It was only after Nealie Barker posted about this troubling incident on Facebook this week that Airbnb finally decided to ban the host.
“Our original handling of this incident did not meet the high standards we set for ourselves, and we have apologized to the family and fully refunded their stay,” Airbnb said in a statement provided to Ars Technica.