back to article Boffins find way to use a standard smartphone to find hidden spy cams

Recent model smartphones can be smarter still about finding hidden cameras in their vicinity, if they take advantage of time-of-flight (ToF) sensors. ToF is a measurement technique that relies on reflected light to quickly determine the distance of objects. ToF sensors are used in LIDAR (light detection and ranging) systems …

  1. Someone Else Silver badge

    So cellphones now have frickin' lasers!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm waiting for the sharks before I upgrade.

      1. Jim Mitchell
        Alert

        I have concerns about putting a shark in my pocket.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Indeed. PETA would publically shame you for the cruel treatment of the poor creature.

          1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge
            Trollface

            (or, knowing PETA, they'd advocate extreme violence against you because that's apparently okay if you're not an animal...)

            1. LogicGate Silver badge

              I have always found that the organisation named People for the Eating of Tasty Animals to attract a well balanced and friendly bunch of people......

              ..Or do you mean thast other group?

              1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

                The group you mention are a great bunch of lads. Had them round for my signature dish the other week: veal that's been force-fed only on pâté de foie gras using a giant funnel while being held completely immobile for its whole (albeit brief) life. It's a good recipe, that – the sauce really brings out the suffering.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          So you were just pleased to see me.

        3. Rob

          I'm sure the NHS will see a sharp rise in shark bites on the arse in females, less so with males as we tend to use the front pocket and we're unlikely to put a creature with sharp teeth near our bollocks.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "[...] we're unlikely to put a creature with sharp teeth near our bollocks."

            Never underestimate human stupidity.

          2. Surreal

            So, you're not familiar with Florida.

          3. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. EnviableOne Silver badge
        Coat

        have to settle for Sea-bass (all be it slightly mutated ones)

        Mines the one with the mini-me in the pocket

  2. ShadowSystems Silver badge

    Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

    At least the ones over here on this side of The Pond anyway. They set the camera detection system up at the front of the theater & set it to scan the crowd facing the screen. It detects the presence of the camera lense, the management uses multiple sensors to triangulate the specific seat in which it's located, then sends in security to escort out the offender.

    Can't you do something similar by simply shining a laser pointer around the room, watching for the reflected laser light, then doing a bit of more in-depth examination of the flash point?

    Or you could use an RPI, a laser pointer, & a light detector as a DIY room sweeper, target the reflective bits every tenth of a second to keep it blinded, and couple it with an audio pickup & a noise canceling algorithm to be a white noise generator.

    Or am I having fantasies of being James Bond again?

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

      Nope. You're having fantasies of being Q again.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

      Reminds me of my date with Teresa in the fifth form. We went to see "Stardust (1974)" in the Odeon where her mother was an usher and she was watching us from time to time. Still, I did put my hand on Teresa's hand.

      But things have changed so much today. Now there is constant infra-red surveillance, to detect those who bring their own popcorn, hand holding, or even

      International Business Times: Night Vision Cameras Capture Couple Having Sex in Front Row of Movie Theater

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

        >Night Vision Cameras Capture Couple Having Sex in Front Row of Movie Theater

        Perhaps the couple were afraid of all hotel rooms being bugged with hidden cameras.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

          they were not afraid, they were not even bothered, they were busy shooting their own movie for their youporn channel.

          Next step: movie showing couple having sex in the front row of a movie theater for their own yourporn channel...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

        That's what the complementary blankets in the double seats are for (it was A Good Day To Die Hard, such an abominably shit film that wife and I had to entertain ourselves)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

          5 thumbs up*

          No, just one

          * at time of this comment

      3. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        Re: Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

        Contrary to popular belief, most cinemas (Odeon, for example) don't care if you take your own popcorn.

        1. ectel

          Re: Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

          Also I was failing to see how IR could determine if the pop-corn was from the concession stand or home.

          Maybe it could tell if you were cooking you own popcorn

          1. Quando

            Re: Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

            Maybe it detects the lack of a hit on the wallet to pay for theirs?

      4. Ochib
        Joke

        Re: Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

        Got kicked out of the cinema today just because I took my own food! My argument was the prices they charge there are outrageous, and besides I haven't had a barbecue for ages...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

      I could find a reference to detecting the red recording light, and to using infrared cameras, but not to passive detection of the camera lens. So please explain more how it's done.

      I think shining a laser in customers eyes could result in some complaints, and even lawsuits.

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

        Not to mention false positives from spectacles and contact lenses

      2. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        How it's done

        From the paper:

        Specifically, the hidden camera embedded in the object reflects the incoming laser pulses at a higher intensity than its surroundings due to an effect called lens-sensor retro-reflection. This occurs when almost all light energy impacting an object is reflected directly back to the source (see Section 2.2). These unexpectedly high-intensity reflections from hidden cameras cause certain regions of the ToF sensor to be “saturated” and appear as black pixels. LAPD processes these saturated areas to automatically identify the hidden camera.

        So, it sounds like any glass bead would be identified as a hidden camera.

        1. captain veg Silver badge

          Re: How it's done

          Or cats.

          -A.

          1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

            Re: How it's done

            Or another cellphone camera scanning your cellphone to see if you're filming them. Although if that happens I think it triggers the singularity.

        2. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid

          Re: How it's done

          Not for any glass bead, as it won't necessarily retroreflect (ie send the incoming light back in the same direction it came from, regardless of incident angle), unless it's been deliberately manufactured to, with a retro reflective backing to it. The reflective studs in roads ("cat's eyes" in the UK and possibly elsewhere) do this but only because they have the retroreflective material behind the glass bead. I think the glass bead only works to provide protection from the elements and being run over whilst still allowing the light in and back out.

          Animal eyes that retroreflect only do so for a very narrow range of incident angles. If you've ever seen the effect for yourself, you may notice the animal's eyes shine really bright (if you're illuminating them) only when they turn to look at you.

          Cameras can retroreflect over a large range of incident angles due to the way the imaging sensor reflects incident light. It's a phenomenon that had been known about for a long time, but the novel thing here is using the existing built in smartphone lidar to do it.

          There's a similar effect in RF, where a horn antenna will retroreflect the incident electromagnetic wave if it's at the right frequency. Makes it very hard to build a radar that is in turn stealthy to other radars. One if the reasons to move towards phased array radars target than mechanically scanned antennas.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

        "I think shining a laser in customers eyes could result in some complaints, and even lawsuits."

        ...and few thank you notes from people who used to have cataracts :-)

    4. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Haven't movie theaters been doing it for years?

      "Or you could use an RPI, a laser pointer, & a light detector as a DIY room sweeper, target the reflective bits every tenth of a second to keep it blinded"

      Or get a bigger laser and don't worry about targeting it more than once.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    > At least the ones over here on this side of The Pond anyway. They set the camera detection system up at the front of the theater & set it to scan the crowd facing the screen. It detects the presence of the camera lense, the management uses multiple sensors to triangulate the specific seat in which it's located, then sends in security to escort out the offender.

    If you got yourself a nice pair of shiny glass eyes you could wind up theatre owners no end.

    1. Slx

      That explains why I keep getting thrown out of cinemas since I was assimilated by the Borg.

      1. slimshady76
        Coat

        Actually, they're throwing you out because of the implied financial losses. Once you watch a movie, the hole Borg has watched it, and nobody else from the collective would go to the threater.

        Mine is the one with the infected tricorder in the inner pocket.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too soon?

    You shouldn't have announced this before releasing it. The spooks are gonna get you now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too soon?

      That, eh, assuming it wasn't released by the spooks....

  5. Emir Al Weeq

    LAPD

    So, LAPD in LA: the police; LAPD on a phone: Link Access Protocol D-channel.

    Oh!

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Coat

      What about LAPD on a phone in LA ?

      1. Kane Silver badge

        "What about LAPD on a phone in LA ?"

        LALAPDP?

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "What about LAPD on a phone in LA ?"

        It sounds like part of a song lyric?

  6. Empire of the Pussycat

    Thunderbird 1 had camera detection years ago

    Perhaps the Hood finally stole the secret

    1. revenant
      Happy

      Re: Thunderbird 1 had camera detection years ago

      At the time, the young me thought that TB1's hidden camera detector was a bit unbelievable (though I didn't have a problem with TB1 itself, for some reason). Nice to see that it wasn't far-fetched after all.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Thunderbird 1 had camera detection years ago

        IT was TB1's way of destroying the film inside a cine camera that worried me. Very like the 'Mission Impossible' self destruct in ten seconds, with smoke coming out of the canister.

        1. NXM

          Re: Thunderbird 1 had camera detection years ago

          Lady Penelope and Parker shot someone in a car causing a large pileup on the M4 on my 'No Strings Attached' record cos he'd nicked the Neutron Stabiliser or something.

          Presumably they called Virgil to rescue everyone later.

          Apparently at the script meetings they'd occasionally consider rescuing Alan from orbit, but always decided too leave him there to wank himself to death.

          1. DailyLlama

            Re: Thunderbird 1 had camera detection years ago

            "Apparently at the script meetings they'd occasionally consider rescuing Alan from orbit, but always decided too leave him there to wank himself to death."

            Odd, I don't recall that particular storyline...

  7. Clausewitz 4.0
    Devil

    Money / Sweep Team / Firing Squad

    A good sweep team with spectrum analyzers can do a good job on that, and find all the hidden cameras.

    If you were being spied on, there is place to get good money. Or to the folks responsible - 15+ years incarceration, or firing squad depending on the criminal justice code of your country, or your mood if an official.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: A good sweep team with spectrum analyzers

      Those types rarely choose AirB&B to reserve a hotel room, methinks.

      And if you're the type who has a sweep team available you likely don't either.

      1. Ivan Headache

        Re: A good sweep team with spectrum analyzers

        My sweep team is too busy with the dead leaves at the moment.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A good sweep team with spectrum analyzers

          ah, Ivan, I FINALLY know where you live! (the sweepers/suckers/hovers moved out of my area about... 1.5 hr ago)

      2. Outski Silver badge

        Re: A good sweep team with spectrum analyzers

        aargh, Pascal, I never had you figured for a "methinks" poster

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Money / Sweep Team / Firing Squad

      I recall, many years ago, having a radio on my desk (to provide background music - days before iPods, etc). Tuning through the FM band to find a suitable stationI picked up a discussion; curious, I listened in for a few seconds and realised it was a meeting at the company in the offices next door. Somebody was being naughty and had bugged the meeting room - but a cheapskate as their bug was just a simple FM transmitter.

      I don't know if they were caught - but their antics were certainly stopped.

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Money / Sweep Team / Firing Squad

      I find the best way to find the scanner operator is to get my kit off - you can hear their screams from 3 streets away!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Money / Sweep Team / Firing Squad

      Surveillance cameras might not be using the RF spectrum. They could be motion activated with large storage for subsequent retrieval.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stay in some randos accommodation

    Hidden spy cams may be the least of your problems.

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    New method then.

    First scan the room for any suspicious cameras.

    Mark the spots.

    Give them a good treatment of Cap'n Browneye up close and personal before wadding a bit of Prestik on the offending area.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a way to address what he described as asymmetric warfare

    so how do you address this: you're in a shop, you pull out your fancy-shmancy mobile with a (premium/pro) app that goes bleep-bleep! and discover 32 hidden cameras (plus 36 un-hidden)? Likewise in b&b. Do you storm out? Start ripping the walls, etc? Call b&b? (lol). What about school, interview room, toilet, etc. Perhaps a tinfoil hat with a brim wide enough (no batteries included) is a better bet...

    1. Clausewitz 4.0
      Devil

      Re: a way to address what he described as asymmetric warfare

      I am quite a realistic person, tinfoil hats are not my vibe. I prefer microchips I can sell for a big amount of money.

      If you are in a shop, I don't believe you can do anything.

      If you are at home, or bathroom, it is a serious violation of privacy, human rights, international law and military law - if selling / broadcasting secrets to other states by a private party, gets only worst.

      The deal resumes to some millions in monetary compensation agreement + NDA signed to avoid the snafu, or 15+ years incarseration or firing squad - according to legislation, it is not me saying.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a way to address what he described as asymmetric warfare

        You're assuming the hidden camera has a name tag like "If found please return to..." on it. In reality you most likely won't know who put it there.

        Or even if it's just the camera you were supposed to find easily so you henceforth feel secure.

  11. a_yank_lurker

    Another Use

    Looking for hidden cameras was not what I was expecting for another phone use. But taking advantage that cameras have lenses which have certain optical properties is actually quite ingenious.

    While hidden cameras are an issue, not to be minimized, I wonder how much of a problem they really are in terms of actual misuse vs media hype. Also, hidden cameras to some degree have been around for sometime now even if they were bulky film cameras and were real PITA to set up and use.

    When traveling, I prefer to stay are a real hotel/motel or BnB, i.e. a real business, not someone's side gig to make a little extra money. One reason is I know a real business should be inspected by the local health authorities in most developed countries and there is better case law if there is a problem.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Another Use

      > "When traveling, I prefer to stay are a real hotel/motel or BnB,"

      Well, do be careful. See the documentary 'Bad times at the El Royale'

      https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6628394/

      And be especially polite to the desk clerk.

    2. EnviableOne Silver badge

      Re: Another Use

      S Korea has a specific problem 30,000 plus cases reported last 5 years

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-45040968

      they are not alone

  12. xyz Silver badge

    Can your phone fire back?

    I'm thinking speed cameras here.

  13. Jake Maverick

    nobody else find it a bit funny that this is just now becoming possible now that the 5g/ 5000G. Wifi/ 3d holo scanning system has been rolled out....?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like