A recent article in Popular Mechanics was a timely reminder of the ingenuity we’ve brought to listening devices over the years. It details efforts by the CIA to develop listening devices that would be innocuous and hard to detect, from mechanical dragonflies to cameras attached to cats and pigeons. Intelligence agencies aren’t the only ones using these devices; especially in recent years, a robust industry has been putting advanced bugging and surveillance technologies into the hands of private individuals, who are using listening devices to protect their own businesses, or to infiltrate competitors and private individuals alike. If you’re wondering if you’ve been targeted, here are some things you should know, and whether you should contact Barefoot Professional Investigations for listening device detection.
How To Know if You’ve Been Bugged
There are many telltale signs that can alert you to the fact that you’re being bugged. We won’t go through all of them here — that’s a topic for another, longer, post — but some of the phenomena a professional investigator will ask about will include:
- Break-ins where nothing is missing
- Suspicious gifts — especially electronics — from vendors or individuals you don’t know well
- Service calls nobody seems to remember placing
- Small amounts of debris — drywall dust, ceiling tile pieces — on the floor
- Suspicious TV, radio, or infotainment system interference in your home or vehicle
- Unusual tones, distortion, or static during phone calls
- Electronic devices losing a charge faster than usual or exhibiting abnormally high processor use
- Acquaintances and competitors knowing things about your personal or business activities that would otherwise have been secret
Where Listening Devices are Planted
There are many places to plant listening devices.
Watches, lapel pins, cufflinks, and brooches are among the many unobtrusive places to plant listening devices. So too are everyday objects we wouldn’t give a second thought, from ball point pens to teddybears. If you’ve been gifted one of these items, don’t throw it in the trash just yet, but be aware that there may be more to it than meets the eye.
Being able to tap existing power means full-time operation for listening devices; even those that are battery powered can benefit from the ability to hide in plain sight. Lighting fixtures, sockets, cable boxes, and the like are all favorite spots for listening devices.
Communications ports, Wi-Fi routers, coaxial connections, and even your VOIP trunk can be vulnerable to listening devices. After all, what’s most important to a competitor or malefactor may have more to do with your data than your speech, which is why our debugging sweeps often encompass computer debugging.
Asking for the day’s weather, a stock market update, or a silly joke from Siri or Alexa may come with more than you bargained for. Smart homes are a favorite target of smart criminals, since many items can be turned against their owners for surveillance purposes — including the same things we’re ostensibly using to protect us against those who’d do us wrong.
Computers and Personal Electronics
Speaking of electronics, another popular place for listening “devices” is your phone or tablet, and the person who planted them may be the same one who greets you in your bathroom mirror each morning. Without realizing it, many individuals and businesses have installed applications whose ostensible function — a game, the ability to add funny faces to photographs — is secondary to the ability to monitor your communications down to the individual keystroke or mouse click, scrape your contact data, or otherwise glean information about you.
What Not to Do, and What to Do Instead
One thing you should not do is attempt to remove listening devices on your own. For one thing, you may only be removing one device out of many; for another, the surveillance to which you’re being subjected may be illegal, and removing the devices can alert someone to the fact that they’ve been discovered. Instead, you should get in touch with a professional investigator for debugging, TSCM (technical surveillance countermeasures), and computer forensics.
Not only will Barefoot Professional Investigations find the devices and applications in question, but we’ll also broaden the investigation to find the source, alerting law enforcement and preserving a chain of custody that helps you fight back. For a confidential debugging consultation, get in touch today.