A guide to Listening Devices
“Electronic eavesdropping is a major concern when you look at how easy a Covert Listening Device is to buy and install”
Bugging Devices – Covert Listening Devices
International Intelligence Limited has been providing Technical Surveillance Countermeasures Services (TSCM Sweeps) to clients from around the world since 2002; over that time, we have discovered many covert Bugging Devices or Eavesdropping Devices, devices planted maliciously for the purpose of eavesdropping.
What are Covert Listening Devices?
A Covert Listening Device is an electronic device that is concealed with the purpose eavesdropping on conversations. Covert Listening Devices are also known as wires or bugging devices or when use on telephone lines, as wire taps or intercepts. A Covert Listening Device can either transmit audio live or record the audio, sometimes for later transmission.
Most modern Covert Listening Devices transmit on either the GSM but some can also transmit via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, with older and cheaper types transmitting via UHF or FM frequencies. These older and cheaper bugs should not be discounted, as we will discuss!
Types of Listening Device
These days you only have to pop on Google and search for “Bugging Devices”, “Listening Devices” “Eavesdropping Devices” and you will be met with a wall of products that on first glance look relatively mundane, like pens, PC mice, adapter plugs, sockets, clocks and air fresheners, the list is more or less endless. For the pourpose of this article we will only look at “Bugging Devices” and not at "Wire Tap" or "Telephone Intercepts".
Some devices record for later recovery, some transmit, there are different categories for different uses, you have three main categories based on deployment:
- Plug and Play
- Leave and Retrieve
Let’s look at these different categories in more detail and discuss how they might best be deployed.
Plug and Play Listening Devices
“Plug and Play” devices are those that you can quickly plug into a power source and leave. These devices will transmit on whatever frequency to a receiving device, this could be a special recorder or standard cell phone.
This category of device is useful for quick deployment and would include adapter sockets, light bulbs, clocks etc.
Being plugged into the power supply means that these devices do not need to contain or rely upon batteries.
Leave and Retrieve Listening Devices
“Leave and Retrieve” devices are normally small recording devices that can be left in a suitable location to record a conversation rather than transmitting the conversation. These categories of devices are often disguised as bottles of water, coffee cups, plant pots, pens, calculators etc. and are all powered by battery.
The nature of this category of device is that they are limited in use by both power and solid-state memory, so have limited applications.
Hard-wired Listening Devices
This type of device is the hardest to detect. “Hard-wired” Listening Devices can be imbedded into any electronic device including of course household appliances such as televisions, radios, smoke alarms, plug sockets etc. and take power directly from that device.
Hard-wiring eavesdropping devices is the preferred method of professionals. These devices take much longer to install and would often need prior knowledge of the host device but will yield the best result.
Prior planning would consider a number of issues, the most suitable location for the device (close to where conversations are likely to take place).
The choice of host device is really important, a hard-wired device cannot of course be concealed inside electronic devices that will interfere with the device, such as a microwave oven!
Given time, there are a number of extremely advance options open to those planting Hard-wired eavesdropping devices these include:Back-up battery power
This option enables the Listening Device to remain active, even if the host device is switched off. This will remain active until the battery discharges and as long at the battery gets regularly recharged, eavesdropping will be able to be carried out for long uninterrupted periods.Microphone and lead
This can be an extremely complicated eavesdropping device. The principle is that a small and powerful microphone is concealed within the target area, connected to a lead that is itself connected to the Listening Device. Ideally hijacking cabling that is already in place – telephone cabling for example does not make use of all wires within its core and this is a prime candidate.
This option means that the Listening Device does not need to be in the target room or indeed the same building, making the device extremely hard to detect via a TSCM Sweep, even using the most well-equipped, competent TSCM teams.
The only ways of really discovering this method is a physical test of wiring and thoroughly inspecting sockets etc. and this should ONLY be done by a qualified professional
Are you being Bugged?
Well to begin with, there are many reasons that people think that they are being put under electronic surveillance, i.e. being bugged. How can you detect listening devices in your home? Whatever the reason you may think that you are being under electronic surveillance, there are some basic things for you to think about.Sensitive Locations:
Where do you have conversations that might be easily recorded? Remember, the likelihood is that only one area may be “bugged”. Microphones on most Listening Devices are really only effective at short range of a few meters.Background noise:
The probability of someone obtaining a usable audio recording of a conversation taking place while you are watching television, listening to music or in a noisy public place such as a bar or restaurant is remote, not impossible, but remote. It is possible with the correct software to clean up and enhance recordings, but this takes time and unless a conversation is extremely valuable may not be worth the effort.
As we have discussed, bugging devices come in many different guises and there is something for everyone it would seem!Questions to ask yourself if you think you are being bugged:
- Are my conversations worth recording?
- Has someone had unrestricted access to the given target area?
- Are there any new items in that area?
- Has anyone given me any gifts recently?
Eavesdropping on a budget - Cheap Listening Devices!
The rise of GSM technology over the past 15 years or so has spawned very cheap GSM Bugging devices.
Being able to transmit a covertly captured conversation anywhere in the world via GSM at a relatively low cost has made GSM devices the go-to device. GSM Listening Devices can be found at less than the price of a good night out.
The cost of the eavesdropping device does of course have no reflection on its possible use and deployment. If a £100 device gets results, then it’s the results that count!
If someone is going to go to the trouble of bugging you and wants to get solid results, then that of course takes planning, and one single point of failure with GSM is can you get a phone signal on that carrier in that location? A very obvious question, but if you go to the effort of planning a device only to find that it is not operative because it does not have a signal, then it’s a wasted effort and of course unnecessary risk.
We DO NOT recommend that you start inspecting wall sockets or taking part electronic devices. If you have a real concern get some professional advice. International Intelligence Limited provides a professional Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM) Sweep service that utilizes professionals in Counter Espionage, Radio Frequencies, Telecommunications and qualified Electricians. For more information, see: TSCM Services.