Saturday, April 6, 2013

THE SHIELD OF GOLD, Who or What is Bugging You?

With all the tiny video and audio recording devices now on the market, even people who are not in law enforcement can easily find means to eavesdrop, record, “bug,” others. For example, some families have “nanny-cams” to observe what the nanny is doing with the children while the parents are out.


Industrial espionage is a major corporate concern, as fortunes can hang in the balance if trade secrets, bargaining strategies, or marketing campaigns are divulged to competitors. The threat of terrorist attacks on certain sites means that their security measures need to be kept confidential, too.


In the corporate world, security concerns can lead to the need for expensive countermeasures, including the “sweeping” of the premises to be sure that there are no hidden recording devices there.


At a facility not far from where the World Trade Center towers had been attacked, our client had fired a site foreman, who subsequently returned to the site. Unfortunately, there was minimal site security and no cameras, with the company blueprints available for theft or photographic copying.


When this corporation’s executives realized their security vulnerability, they called our firm and we swept 25 offices and 75 cubicles, as well as their halls and other common areas, and we were able to reassure them that there were no recording devices present.


Whether concerned about terrorism or industrial espionage, five other New York City companies asked our firm soon after this to carry out similar work. Having done so, we were able to reassure them, as well.


Even private homes can be the targets of electronic eavesdropping. One client of ours was a medical doctor who had testified against the local police in a dispute involving alleged police brutality. After the case was over, he became convinced that he was being stalked by the police, sometimes in plainclothes, and that they had probably planted eavesdropping devices as well. Whenever he saw a police car near his home, he suspected that they were trying to harass him.


The doctor asked our firm to do a thorough check of his home, to detect any eavesdropping devices which might have been planted there. It was a big house, and we carried out an especially thorough search, sweeping the area with equipment that would detect a variety of snooping devices.


Nothing showed up until we reached his bedroom, the master bedroom. We got a signal there that was somewhat puzzling, possibly due to a recording device, though not wholly matching the usual signatures of such devices.


It occurred to me to turn off all the power to that bedroom, to be sure that none of the doctor’s commercial electrical equipment was producing the signals that we were receiving. A bug would have had its own power supply, a battery, and would not have been affected by turning the house power off to the bedroom.


Sure enough, when we turned off the power to the bedroom, the signal disappeared. It was coming from some piece of household electrical equipment the doctor had in his bedroom. I noticed he had one of those new spirally light bulbs, and I tried unscrewing it, while leaving everything else on. The worrisome signal stopped. That was it.


We were able to reassure our client that he was not being recorded in his home. In general, it is rare to find that someone has successfully placed a bug in a private home.

Still, there is nothing like knowing that there is nothing there.

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