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Bugging Essay, Research Paper

Bugging (Everybody’s Favorite Subject)

A “Bug” is a device which is placed in an area which then intercepts communications and transmits them out of that area to a listening post.

There are five categories of “Bugs”: (Acoustic, Ultrasonic, RF, Optical, and Hybrid).

Acoustic is the placing of a water glass, stethoscope, or rubber tube into an area and directly intercepting the communication with the naked ear.

Ultrasonic is a technique to convert the sound into an audio signal above the range of human hearing, the ultrasonic sound is then intercepted nearby and converted back to audio.

RF (or Radio Frequency) is the most well known type of bugging device. A radio transmitter is placed in an area or in a device. This is your classic martini olive bug and “spy shop” store device. Extremely easy to detect, but cheap, disposable, and difficult to trace back to the person who planted it. (This was the Watergate bug).

Optical is a bugging device that converts sound (or data) into an optical pulse of light. It is rarely used, expensive, and easy to detect.

Any of the above techniques and devices can be combined to make a Hybrid bug.

Families of Bugs

Free Space Emission:

1. Acoustic/Audible Pressure Waves

2. Acoustic/Ultrasonic Pressure Waves

3. Optical/Invisible Light (UV, etc…)

4. Optical/Visible Light

5. Optical/Invisible Light (Infrared, etc…)

6. RF Transmission (VLF) 3 kHz – 3 MHz

7. RF Transmission (HF) 100 kHz – 70 MHz

8. RF Transmission (VHF) 30 MHz – 300 MHz

9. RF Transmission (UHF) 300 MHz – 1 GHz

10. RF Transmission (Microwave Low) 900 MHz – 3 GHz

11. RF Transmission (Microwave Mid) 3 GHz – 12.5 GHz

12. RF Transmission (Microwave High) 12.5 GHz – 26.5/33/40 GHz

13. RF Transmission (Microwave mm) 26.5/33/40 GHz – 325 GHz

14. RF Transmission (Microwave mm2) 325 GHz – 1.5 THz

15. Free Space – Magnetic

Conducted Emission:

16. Audible (Voice Frequency)

17. Ultrasonic

18. Video

19. Current Carrier up to 500 kHz (AC Mains, Phone, CATV, etc)

20. Radio Frequency (AC/Mains Devices, waveguide, etc)

21. Fiber Optic

22. Other

Types of Covert Eavesdropping Activities


1. Counter Counter Intelligence (Counter-TSCM)

2. Counter Intelligence (TSCM)

3. Active (Classic Spying, Heavy Bugging, & Black Bag Jobs)

4. Passive (Primarily Listen, Minor Bugging)

Law Enforcement:

1. High Level Intelligence (Domestic – DEA, FBI, USSS, FISA, etc…)

2. Low Level Intelligence (Domestic Law Enforcement)

3. Investigation of Major Crimes (Murder, Arson, etc)

4. Active (Wiretaps, Body wires, etc)

5. Passive (Cellular Phone/Beeper Monitoring)

6. Tactical (SWAT Teams, Throw-Phones, etc)

7. Management (Video in Police Cars, wireless microphones)

8. Outlaw (Illegal Surveillance Activities)

Private Investigator:

1. Intelligence – Active (Black Bag Jobs)

2. Intelligence – Passive (Cell Phone/Beeper Monitoring)

3. Surveillance – Active (Black Bag Jobs)

4. Surveillance – Passive (Cell Phone/Beeper Monitoring)

Warning Signs of Covert Eavesdropping or Bugging

If several of the following warning signs apply to you then it would be a very good idea to immediately contact Granite Island Group, or another TSCM firm and schedule an inspection as you may be the target of covert eavesdropping activities.

When contacting any TSCM firm please remember not to call from any suspect area or to use any suspect telephone.

1. Others know your confidential business or professional trade secrets.

This is the most common indicator of covert eavesdropping activities. Theft of confidential information is a multi-billion dollar underground industry in the United States. Often the loss of your secrets will show up in very subtle ways. Always trust your instincts in this matter.

2. Secret meetings and bids seem to be less than secret.

Confidential meetings and bids are very popular targets for corporate spies. How would you like the plans for the corporate takeovers your planning to become public knowledge? Would copies of your product designs be of any use to your competitors?

3. People seem to know your activities when they shouldn’t.

You have noticed strange sounds or volume changes on your phone lines.

Commonly caused by an amateur eavesdropper when they attach the actual wiretap, or similar listening device. Surveillance devices often cause slight anomalies on the telephone line such a volume shift or drop-out.

4. 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.

5. You can hear sounds coming from your phones handset when it’s hung up.

Typically caused by a hook switch bypass, which turns the telephone receiver into a 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).

6. Your phone often rings and nobody is there, or a very faint tone, or high pitched squeal/beep is heard.

This is a key 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.

7. Your AM/FM radio has suddenly develops strange interference.

Many amateur eavesdropping devices use frequencies within the FM radio band, these signals tend to “quiet” an FM radio in the vicinity of the bug. Look for the transmissions at far ends of the FM radio band, and 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 to locate the bug (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. Keep in mind that the antenna your car radio uses may be exploited by an eavesdropper, and that such usage may interfere with radio reception.

8. Your television has suddenly developed strange interference.

Television broadcast 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. 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 with eavesdroppers.

9. You have been the victim of a burglary, but nothing was taken.

Professional eavesdroppers 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.

10. 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, 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 wallplate against the wall have been moved from their previous position.

11. A dime-sized discoloration has suddenly appeared on the wall.

Tell tale sign that a pinhole microphone or small video camera has been recently installed.

12. 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 on.

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” dispensor, 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.

13. A small bump of deformation has appeared on the vinyl baseboard

Strong indicator that someone may have concealed covert wiring or a microphone imbedded into the adhesive which holds the molding to the wall.

14. 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 surface”.

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.

15. Certain types of items have “just appeared” in your office of 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, and Lamps.

16. 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.

17. Small pieces of ceiling tiles, or “grit” is noticed on the floor, or on the surface area of your desk.

Prime indicator 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 in the ceiling tiles and amateur spies always tend to crack or damage acoustical tiles. Note: all of 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 to 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.

18. You notice that “Phone Company” trucks and utilities workers are spending a lot of time near your home or office doing repair work.

If you see the same or similar vehicle more then three times then you have a serious problem (at least according to the U.S. State Department training course on countersurveillance)

19. 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.

20. Service or delivery trucks are often parked nearby with nobody 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.

21. 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. Always use Biaxial locks with sidebars (such as ASSA or Medeco). Also, only use double sided deadbolts in all doors. Use good quality window bars on all windows, and a good quality door bar on all doors not used as a primary entry doors.

22. 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.

23. 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.

Who Gets Bugged?

Anyone can be the target of Covert Eavesdropping, however; some people are under greater risk than others because of financial position, occupation, legal, or domestic situation.

+ Spouses bug each other on a regular basis

+ Parents bug children

+ Businessmen bug other businessmen

+ Scientists bug other scientists

+ Students bug professors

+ Attorneys bug other attorneys (and their clients)

+ Insurance companies bug accident victims

+ Construction companies bug other construction companies

+ Salesmen bug clients

+ Collection agencies bug debtors

+ Police officers bug suspects

+ Executive recruiters bug personnel directors

+ Rock fans bug rock musicians

+ Department stores bug customers and merchandise

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