There is a very suspicious man living in my building. I noticed a new imbedded device at the shared entrance which he claims is a monoxide detector. As an aside, there is no need for a monoxide detector on this level of the building which is extremely unusual.

On the outside, the device is indeed branded with a product number, and everything appears to be a monoxide detector. However, I am aware certain companies and illegal markets sell hidden cameras, freaking devices, network sniffers etc in hardware pieces like this one.

This man has no legal authority to be installing a camera at this entrance, and I intend to open the device and identify the components. My question is firstly: what invasive/illegal activities could an embedded device like this be capable of? I don't expect the man spent 10k or anything, so I doubt it's that sophisticated.

My second question, although possibly for a different site, is how can effectively identify malicious components, especially without compromising the evidence. (I intend to contact the authorities if I can identify a malicious/illegal function)

closed as too broad by Philipp, Anders, Matthew, Steffen Ullrich, grochmal Dec 20 '16 at 20:33

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Two different breeds of paranoids living in the same building. That's a recipe for fun. – Philipp Dec 20 '16 at 15:26
  • It's a semi-attached and one of the women in the building has told me that this particular man has made her feel uncomfortable on multiple occasions. So it's not that far-fetched. The 'detector' is also pointing at the door in suspicious manner, and as I mentioned, we already have an integrated detector installed in the ceiling on this building level. – bigcodeszzer Dec 20 '16 at 15:29
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    Strategically place a sign up (no smoking or something) to obscure the view of it. – user81147 Dec 20 '16 at 15:52
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    What did your landlord say when you asked about the new device? And, as a caution, you're unlikely to be qualified to determine where a CO detector is or is not required. Such things fall into overlapping (national/state/local) jurisdictions and the regulations change as often as annually. I've got two Smoke/CO detectors in my house, literally 3 feet apart, to comply with code. – gowenfawr Dec 20 '16 at 18:22
  • @gowenfawr If I find a lense in the detector, it doesn't matter if we actually need a detector there or not. – bigcodeszzer Dec 20 '16 at 19:32

If the device is capable of recording data for later use, I would expect it to either have some sort of data storage capability, or some sort of wireless connectivity (because a wired connection would be harder to conceal). So my first guess would be to scan the area to see what networks are active there, there's smartphone apps that can do that for you. If no luck, just take a good look at it to see if there are any ports (likely usb or SD) on it, or any panels which look as if they're removable.

Secondly, if the device has a serial (or similar) number, it might be worth to google that.

Thirdly (and probably most effectively) going from your story I assume your building will have a landlord or a congierge or someone similar. You could just ask them if they installed a device and/or authorised the scary man to do so.


Most impersonating devices like you are describing are cameras. When we used to install them in the past (10-12 years ago) they were primarily wired video transmission. Now days the majority of them broadcast. If you were to open one of them now days up you'd notice a PCB antenna.

The majority of them broadcast in the 2.4ghz and 5.8ghz unlicensed spectrum.

They tend to require more power than a carbon monoxide/smoke detector though.

So to recap. Pop the cover. If its running off of a 9v battery and you dont see a PCB antenna or a pinhole camera. Then it likely is simply a carbon monoxide/smoke detector.

  • It's plugged into the wall with two AA backups. From the schematics I've been looking at, I'm guessing a lens would be pretty obvious. – bigcodeszzer Dec 20 '16 at 16:31
  • But it's not /that/ from our router, either, which concerns me because I don't know a thing about signal interception. – bigcodeszzer Dec 20 '16 at 16:33
  • Not that ****far from our router – bigcodeszzer Dec 20 '16 at 16:33

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