Do You Have Bugs?

Are you at risk of being “bugged?”  ASIS lists the following commercial endeavors as being at “high risk” of being the victim or economic espionage:  aerospace and avionics, banking and finance, biotechnology, chemicals and composite materials, energy, information technology and telecommunications, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and medicine to name a few.  Are you a high-profile individual, political figure, or a high net worth individual?  You may also be at risk.  I’d also add to the list law firms that handle high profile and/or high stakes legal cases.    

Electronic advances and miniaturization in recent years have resulted in the production of bugging devices (transmitters, recorders) that are easily hidden in everyday items like smoke detectors, wall clocks, desk ornaments, USB chargers, wrist watches, ball point pins, picture frames, thumb drives, etc. 

Today’s eavesdropping devices are extremely sensitive and versatile.  Gone are the days of complicated transmitter installations with limited range and power challenges which required a “listening post” (someone sitting the back of a van parked nearby or in an adjoining space) to monitor the device. 

Cellular transmitters are, in fact, miniaturized cell phones.  They can be monitored from anywhere in the world where there is cell phone service.  Cellular transmitters can be programmed to notify you by text message if the device detects sounds in its listening radius, negating the need for intelligence on when a meeting will be taking place or having someone monitor the device continually.  They can also be turned on and off remotely as required.  The difficulty in finding such remote-controlled devices is they emanate no radio frequency signals when turned off.  An elementary “bug sweep” of a board room or conference room using spy-shop-grade equipment will yield no indication of the presence of any eavesdropping electronics resulting in a report that no threats are present. However, during a sensitive meeting the device will be transmitting out every word with excellent clarity. 

The next evolution of transmitting device is the Wi-Fi enabled device.  They, too, are controlled remotely and only need a Wi-Fi hot spot or connection to the building’s Wi-Fi where it’s installed to function.  This could be a guest Wi-Fi that is not password protected (more frequent than you might think) or an insider provided password to function.      

Eavesdropping devices, whether cellular, Wi-Fi enabled, or simply a recorder are readily available from numerous internet distributors including Amazon, Walmart, and eBay, most for less than $100.  Generally, “spy shops” will charge a premium for their items on the assumption the customer doesn’t know the devices can be purchased elsewhere for far less.  

Typical commercial “security” focuses on access control, CCTV systems, ID badges, and password protection to create the “appearance of security.”  Unfortunately, the “appearance of security” doesn’t necessarily translate to actual security.  Common corporate security measures, when weighted against economic espionage and eavesdropping threats, create a false sense of security.  With insider threats being at the root of most trade secret and intellectual property losses, internal controls are also necessary.  This includes a robust information security program to include technical surveillance countermeasures (TSCM) inspections on a periodic and unannounced basis of all your spaces where sensitive information is discussed.  In addition to the board room and conference rooms this would include the CEO’s office, the CFO’s office, the general counsel’s office, and the IT management space or office.   

What are you talking about in your board room, conference rooms, or corporate office spaces?  Probably issues like product development, R&D discoveries, mergers and acquisitions, corporate expansion, personnel issues, pending litigation, sensitive legal negotiation strategies, court room strategies to be employed during civil or criminal court proceedings, or any number of other sensitive topics.  The potential monetary loss due to illicit eavesdropping (aka: economic espionage) can be of a commercial value of several million dollars due to loss of market share, compromise of emerging product development, or your adversary knowing your negotiation strategy beforehand.

A TSCM inspection is inexpensive insurance against a multimillion-dollar loss.  However, unlike insurance, a TSCM inspection can prevent a loss before it occurs. 

Think you or your organization might be at risk? With over 100 years of experience, Technical Surveillance Solutions (TSS), a Colorado-based firm, has been assisting all types of clients – from governmental entities to high net-worth individuals – stay safe and secure. Our passionate team is made up of retired military members, police veterans and former Seal Team staff. Contact us today at 719-301-3931 to schedule a free consultation.  

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