Business Technology

Sunday 19 November 2017

What's bugging you – an A-Z of over-the-counter counter-surveillance

Adrian Wreckler: Audio bugs are one thing: hidden video cameras are quite another. Photo: Getty Images.
Adrian Wreckler: Audio bugs are one thing: hidden video cameras are quite another. Photo: Getty Images.
Sweepmaster Plus
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

THINK your office might be under surveillance? Suspect some 'electronic anomalies' might be present in the phones? Or worried about a 'third-party Wi-Fi' device that has been set up without your knowledge?

The good news is that unless it's the US National Security Agency or the British GCHQ spying division, you have a decent shot at uncovering the bugging devices. Here are four tools to help you do so.

Pro-M10FX (€2,300)

Traditionally, listening bugs have used very low-powered, very faint radio frequencies. And traditionally, the way to uncover these devices is by using an RF bug detector.

Any counter-surveillance outfit you hire will have such a device. But there are lots of other ways now, including methods involving cellular networks, by which surveillance is perpetrated.

This is a mid-range device that covers several options in one, by using two different scanners simultaneously to root out telephone bugs, tracking devices and some mobile phone activity. It's a handheld machine that can also detect bugs that operate via cellular 'bursts'.

Wireless Camera Hunter (€500)

Audio bugs are one thing: hidden video cameras are quite another.

Thanks to miniaturisation, it's quite possible to fit a wireless camera into a piece of office furniture, a fixture or a fitting. Some transmit video wirelessly, either over Wi-Fi or via a third device.

While this device does not pinpoint exactly where the device is physically located, it can intercept and display (on its 2.4-inch screen) the live video being filmed, allowing you to figure out where it might be hidden. (If you think you know who planted it and want to frustrate them, you might also consider staging something to send them down a blind alley.)

The device works by scanning transmissions in the 900Mhz to 5850Mhz frequency bands.

Mobile 3G/4G scanner (€3,500)

Sometimes it's not the flowerpots or the lamp fittings that you should be checking. Ordinary phones are sometimes left on deliberately to record conversations, either through an in-built recording function or simply by leaving a live call on while a sensitive issue is being discussed.

This machine is one of the most sophisticated over-the-counter counter-surveillance devices you can buy to tackle this issue. It detects any phones (2G, 3G and even 4G) that are active in the area. It also roots out Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-based bugs. In this way, it is often used to sweep for vehicle-tracking bugs and is also used by venue security staff ahead of confidential meetings.

Sweepmaster Plus (€4,150)

Short of hiring ex-secret service to scour your premises, this is about as sophisticated as you can get for a DIY bug-sweeping device.

It checks for bugs and transmitters in virtually all measurable radio frequencies from 0.1Mhz to 8000Mhz, which is a pretty wide range. It picks up signals from landlines, mobiles, tracking devices and a host of other bugs. It also roots out infrared and laser emitting devices using infrared probes. Finally, it can be connected to a telephone line to try to determine the presence of hard-wired listening devices.

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