You Being Bugged?
Here are some tips
if you think you are being bugged.
Others know your confidential business or professional trade secrets.
This is the most
obvious indicator of covert eavesdropping activities. Theft of confidential
information is a billion dollar underground industry in Canada. Often
the loss of your secrets will show up in very subtle ways so you should
always trust your instincts in this matter. When your competitors know
things that are obviously private, or the media finds out about things
they should not know, then it is reasonable to suspect technical eavesdropping
Secret meetings and bids seem to be less than secret.
and bids are very popular targets for corporate spies. How would you
like the plans for the corporate takeovers you're planning to become
public knowledge? Would copies of your product designs be of any use
to your competitors? Would it be beneficial for your competitors to
know how much you're quoting for the same project?
People seem to know your activities when they shouldn't.
You have noticed strange sounds or volume changes on your phone lines.
is commonly caused by an amateur eavesdropper when they attach a wiretap,
or activate a similar listening device. Surveillance devices often cause
slight anomalies on the telephone line such a volume shift or drop-out.
Professional eavesdroppers and their equipment usually do not make such
noises; so if this is going on it could indicate that an amateur eavesdropper
is listening in. On the other hand you could simply be experiencing
a flaw in the line, but you should check it out.
You have noticed static, popping, or scratching on your phone lines.
This is caused by
the capacitive discharge which occurs when two conductors are connected
together (such as a bug or wiretap on a phone line). This is also a
sign that an amateur eavesdropper or poorly trained spy is playing with
your phone lines. It could be nothing more then a problem with your
phone line or instrument, but a TSCM person should evaluate the situation
to make sure.
Sounds are coming from your phones handset when it's hung up.
This is often caused
by a hook switch bypass, which turns the telephone receiver into an
eavesdropping microphone (and also a speaker). There is probably somebody
listening to everything you say or do within twenty feet of the telephone
(if this is happening).
Your phone often rings and nobody is there, or a very faint tone or high
pitched squeal/beep is heard for a fraction of a second.
This is an indicator
of a slave device, or line extender being used on your phone line. This
is also a key indicator of a harmonica bug, or infinity transmitter
being used. Of course it may also be nothing more then a fax machine
or modem calling the wrong number.
You can hear a tone on your line when your phone is on the hook (by using
an external amplifier).
To check for something
like this you would have to obtain a "recorder starter" interface
(with a VOX option), or some kind of a high gain audio amplifier such
as a uAmp or Kaiser 1059. Then with the phone hung-up listen to your
telephone wiring. If you hear a faint solid dual tone it is a dead giveaway
of someone using a "slave" eavesdropping device on your (or
one of your neighbors) telephone lines. Such devices create a "command
tone" when the subject hangs up the phone (so you must ensure that
all of your phones are hung-up).
Your AM/FM radio has suddenly developed strange interference.
Many amateur and
spy shop eavesdropping devices use frequencies within or just outside
the FM radio band, these signals tend to drift and will "quiet"
an FM radio in the vicinity of the bug.
Look for the transmissions at far ends of the FM radio band, a sound
at any quiet area within the FM band. If the radio begins to squeal
then slowly move it around the room until the sound become very high
pitched. This is referred to as feedback detection or loop detection
and will often locate the bug.
The "stereo" function should be turned off so the radio is
operating in "mono" as this will provide a serious increase
in sensitivity. If you find a "squealer" in this manner then
immediately contact a security technician and get them to your location
Your car radio suddenly starts "getting weird"
Keep in mind that
the antenna your car radio uses may be (and often is) exploited by an
eavesdropper, and that such usage may interfere with radio reception
(so be concerned if you automobile radio suddenly starts getting weird).
Your television has suddenly developed strange interference.
frequencies are often used to cloak a eavesdropping signal, but such
a devices also tends to interfere with television reception (usually
a UHF channel). Televisions also "suck in" a lot of RF energy
and because of this are very sensitive to any nearby transmitters (this
is technically called "Bandwidth, and TV signals use a lot of it).
A small handheld television with a collapsible antenna may be used to
sweep a room. Carefully watch for interference around channel numbers
2, 7, 13, 14, 50-60, and 66-68 as these frequencies are very popular
You have been the victim of a burglary, but nothing was taken.
often break into a targets home or office, and very rarely leave direct
evidence of the break-in; however, occupants of the premises will often
"pickup on something not being right" such as the furniture
being moved slightly.
Electrical wall plates appear to have been moved slightly or "jarred".
One of the most
popular locations to hide eavesdropping devices is inside, or behind
electrical outlets, switches, smoke alarms, and lighting fixtures. This
requires that the wall plates be removed. Look for small amounts of
debris located on the floor directly below the electrical outlet. Also,
watch for slight variations in the color or appearance of the power
outlets and/or light switches as these are often swapped out by an eavesdropper.
Also note if any of the screws which hold the wall plate against the
wall have been moved from their previous position.
A dime-sized discoloration has suddenly appeared on the wall or ceiling.
This is a tell tale
sign that a pinhole microphone or small covert video camera has been
One of your vendors just gave you any type of electronic device such as
a desk radio, alarm clock, lamp, small TV, boom box, CD player, and so
Many of these "gifts"
are actually Trojan horses which contain eavesdropping devices. Be very
suspicious of any kind of pen, marker, briefcase, calculator, "post-it"
dispenser, power adapter, pager, cell phone, cordless phone, clock,
radio, lamp, and so on that is given as a gift. That little gift the
salesman left for you may be a serious hazard.
A small bump or deformation has appeared on the vinyl baseboard near the
that someone may have concealed covert wiring or a microphone imbedded
into the adhesive which holds the molding to the wall. Such deformation
will often appear as a color shift, or lightening of the color.
The smoke detector, clock, lamp, or exit sign in your office or home looks
slightly crooked, has a small hole in the surface, or has a quasi reflective
These items are
very popular concealment for covert eavesdropping devices. Often when
these devices are installed at a target location they are rarely installed
straight. Also watch out for things like this that "just appear",
or when there is a slight change in their appearance.
Certain types of items have "just appeared" in your office or
home, but nobody seems to know how they got there.
Typical items to
watch for and beware of are: clocks, exit signs, sprinkler heads, radios,
picture frames, and lamps.
White dry-wall dust or debris is noticed on the floor next to the wall.
A sign that a pinhole
microphone or video camera may have been installed nearby. It will appear
as if someone has dropped a small amount of powdered sugar either on
the floor, or on the wall.
You notice small pieces of ceiling tiles, or "grit" on the floor,
or on the surface area of your desk. Also, you may observe a cracked,
chipped, or gouged ceiling tiles, or ones that are sagging, or not properly
set into the track.
that a ceiling tile has been moved around, and that someone may have
installed a hidden video camera or other eavesdropping device in your
office or near your desk. Also watch for cracks or chips in the ceiling
tiles. Amateur and poorly trained spies tend to crack or damage acoustical
tiles. The ceiling tiles in any executive areas should never contain
any cracks, nicks, gouges, or stains. Any ceiling tile that becomes
damaged (for what ever reason) should immediately replaced and the cause
of the damage documented. In such cases it is also wise to have a TSCM
specialist inspect the area around the chipped, broken, or damaged tile
to determine if a hostile eavesdropping device may
have been introduced.
You notice that "Phone Company" trucks and utilities workers
are spending a lot of time near your home or office doing repair work.
Telephone, cable, plumbing, or air conditioning repair people show up
to do work when no one called them.
A very common ruse
which eavesdroppers use to get into a facility is to fake a utility
outage, and then show up to fix the problem. While they are fixing "the
problem" they are also installing eavesdropping devices. Some of
the more popular outage involve power, air conditioning, telephone,
and even the occasional false fire alarm.
Service or delivery trucks are often parked nearby with nobody (you can
see) in them.
These vehicles are
commonly used as listening posts, be very cautious of any vehicle which
has a ladder or pipe rack on the roof. Also, be wary of any vehicle
which has tinted windows, or an area which you cannot see though (like
a service van). The listening post vehicle could be any vehicle from
a small Geo Tracker, Suburban, Blazer, Trooper, or Cargo Van. Look for
any vehicle which could conceal a person in the back or has tinted windows.
Also, keep in mind that the eavesdropper may relocate the vehicle several
times, so look around. Typically, eavesdroppers like to get within 500-750
feet from the place or person they are eavesdropping on.
Your door locks suddenly don't "feel right", they suddenly start
to get "sticky", or they completely fail.
Prime evidence that
the lock has been picked, manipulated, or bypassed. Try to always use
biaxial locks with sidebars (such as ASSA or Medeco). Also, only use
double sided deadbolts in all doors, and good quality window bars on
all windows, and a good quality door bar on all doors not used as a
primary entry doors.
Furniture has been moved slightly, and no one knows why.
A very popular location
for the installation of eavesdropping device is either behind, or inside
furniture (couch, chair, lamp, etc.) People who live or work in a targeted
area tend to notice when furnishings have been moved even a fraction
of an inch. Pay close attention to the imprint which furniture makes
on rugs, and the position of lamps shades. Also watch the distance between
furniture and the wall as eavesdroppers are usually in a hurry and rarely
put the furniture back in the right place.
Things "seem" to have been rummaged through, but nothing is
missing (at least that you noticed).
A "less than
professional spy" will often rummage through a targets home for
hours, but very rarely will they do it in a neat and orderly fashion.
The most common "rummaging" targets are the backs of desk
drawers, the bottom of file cabinets, closets, and dresser drawers.
An eavesdropper sends you a copy of your private conversations.
As simple as it
seems this is the strongest indicator, and solid proof of eavesdropping.
An eavesdropper will sometimes send a victim a copy of a private conversation
they intercepted in an attempt at blackmail, or in an attempt to terrorize,
or to just stalk the victim. This is commonly seen in civil lawsuits,
criminal court cases, marital problems, shareholder disputes, custody
battles, and other situations were one side has a position of weakness
and is trying to physiologically undermine their opponent.
Prepared by Dave Rodwell, All rights reserved. www.daverodwell.com
Used with permission of the author.
based, former RCMP, Dave Rodwell has been helping companies protect their
assets for 38 years as a peace officer, investigator, consultant and lecturer.
He can help train your team to combat theft, increase security and work
more effectively. He can help solve your organization’s security
be reached at 780-460-3028 or email@example.com
Visit his website at www.daverodwell.com
for more articles and information.