Friday, September 11, 2009
Wiretaps & Bugs...How to Locate Them
This is Part 3 in the series of Locating Wiretaps and Bugs....Without Any Special Equipment, by Skipp Porteous.
Next, go into your basement, or wherever the telephone interface is in your house. This is just opposite the wall where the telephone junction box is on the outside. There is usually a small plastic box (white or beige) with a cable that contains at least one pair of red and green and at least one pair of black and yellow wires coming in from outside.
The next step is very important, and a little tricky. One-by-one, follow all the wire pairs coming out of the interface. They may go directly to one phone, or several extensions in the house. The number of wires will depend upon how many phone lines you have, and how many extensions.
If a wire goes up into a wall, or some other inaccessible place, don’t worry about it. What you are looking for are bugs or wiretaps that are easy to place.
And always be on the lookout for a bug spliced to a phone line. These transmitters are usually wrapped in electrician’s tape, so as you examine the phone lines coming from the telephone interface, look for “fat” sections of the phone wire, covered with black, or another color, electrician’s tape.
This is why you need to follow each wire with your fingers. If you simply eye the wires, a clever wiretapper will splice a recorder or transmitter several feet down the wire and hide that part of the wire under something.
As you follow the paired wires, be sure that they go to a telephone, or just end with nothing attached to them. Of course, paired wires with nothing attached to them are possible places for future possible attack, so you should keep an eye on these.
If you find a pair of wires going to a recorder, bingo! The recorder may be battery operated, or be plugged into the house current.
As a second line of defense, locate all the outlets in the basement. There are two important things to check on the outlets. First, if there is anything plugged into them, follow the cords. You should know what’s on the other end of every plug.
Sometimes you may miss a recorder attached to your phone line when trying to follow all the wires. But, you’ll still catch it when following all the cords that are plugged into outlets.
Remember, if a person uses a battery operated recorder, he’ll have to have access once in a while to change the batteries. Therefore, sometimes running the recorder off the house current is more convenient.
Also, while checking the outlets, you may find a recorder that’s not attached to a phone line. The first bug I ever found was like this. I found a plug in an outlet, and traced the cord to a small wooden box fastened to the basement ceiling. The wooden box had a door and a latch and padlock. Fortunately, it was unlocked. I opened the door and found a tape recorder inside. A wire went from the top of the box and through a hole in the basement ceiling. I knew I was below the living room, so I went upstairs, and slid the couch away from the wall. I discovered a small microphone under the couch, with a cord going to the wooden box in the basement.
In any room where eavesdropping is a concern, take the face plate off all the outlets. Of course, if you find an outlet near the furnace, you probably shouldn’t be concerned about an eavesdropper listening in that part of the basement. But, if you have a home office in the basement, or any kind of room where you fear eavesdroppers, take the face plate off the outlets in that room.
Below is a typical wall outlet. There is often electrician’s tape around the box containing the outlet. This is normal. But you’ll notice that there is nothing else in there. On the Internet one may purchase wall outlets that contain a miniature microphone, transmitter, and antenna.
Train your flashlight carefully, looking at all sides of the outlet. If you see anything attached to it, even a thin wire (the antenna), you may have located a bug. A mismatching outlet would be a strong clue that something is amiss. Unless you know what you’re doings, suspicious outlets should be replaced by an electrician.
There are several other electrical devices that could house a transmitter. They include power strips and plug adapters to expand your outlet for insertion of two or three plugs. If you find any of these attached to an outlet, and you didn’t purchase it, or know where it came from, replace it with one that you purchased.
Remember, you should keep your eye open for any of the devices you see pictured in this booklet, from the Radio Shack telephone recording devices, to the type of bug attached to a 9-volt battery.
Now, go upstairs.
Here you need to carefully follow all the phone wires as you did in the basement. Know where every wire comes from and where it goes.
Check all the outlets. Inside, start in one corner, and work around the room.Know what is plugged into every outlet.
Next, look in every nook and cranny for:
• Baby monitors (can transmit every sound in a room up to a half mile)
• Unaccounted-for cell phones
• Transmitters hidden in ordinary objects
• Video cameras hidden in ordinary objects
After thoroughly inspecting the ground floor, do the same upstairs, if you have one. Be sure to check all the outlets and trace any phone wires. Remember, bugs are usually placed in areas where you have conversations, whether on the phone or otherwise. So, you’re probably safe in not searching hallways, stairways, etc.
In the attic, look for antennas, recorders, and receivers. Also, check any phone wires with spliced-in recorders and transmitters.
An antenna could simply be a vertical wire, or a TV-type antenna. An antenna in the attic will transmit conversations for several miles.
Sometimes radio receivers and recorders are placed in the attic, using it as a “listening post.” If you find something suspicious, trace the wire/cable to its source. If you find a radio, turn it on; you might hear a transmission from some other part of your house.
If you have a garage, you might find receivers and recorders there. Radio receivers may have a recorder attached. If you locate a suspicious radio receiver in the garage or attic, it means that you may have missed a bug hidden somewhere in your house.
Also check for phone wires attached to a recorder or transmitter.
Video Cameras and Transmitters
Video cameras and transmitters are small enough to be hidden in almost any object, from smoke detectors to Teddy Bears. One question that you have to ask yourself: Where did the item come from?
One small office received a Fedex envelope for an employee that just started his vacation. It was thrown on his desk to await his return. Inside was a (bug) small microphone and transmitter. For several days, it picked up the conversation in the office and transmitted it to an unknown listening post.
When doing a sweep, I always check calculators, clocks, and everything with a battery or that is plugged into the wall. Did you receive a calculator as a gift? A plant? A lamp? The FBI frequently uses a lamp with a built-in hidden camera.
If you’re divorced and your child comes home from a visit with the ex with a new Teddy Bear, the plump toy may have a voice-operated digital recorder or transmitter hidden inside. Thoroughly squeeze the Teddy Bear and you’ll find it.
Look at the photo of the door on page four in the PDF. Without a Hidden Camera Finder, it’s very difficult to locate the camera hidden in the doorframe. This is where the magnifying glass comes in. Routinely inspect surfaces, books, and objects, looking for a tiny hole. If you find a small hole, shine a flashlight in the hole to observe a reflection from a camera lens.
Note: Unless you were away for an extended period of time, probably no one had the time to complete a complicated installation.
If you want more efficiency in locating hidden cameras, wired or wireless, you should order a Spy Finder Hidden Camera Detector from www.pigear.com, for just $89. (This is the only suggestion in this booklet for purchasing special equipment.)
Originally developed for the government, the Spy Finder Hidden Camera Detector works on a simple principle. It flashes a beam around its circle of red LED lights. The viewfinder is directly in the center of the lights, so reflections from hidden video camera lenses shine to the center of your eye. When you see a small red light flashing back at you, you’ve located a camera, whether wired or wireless.
The Spy Finder Hidden Camera Detector will also locate hidden cameras that are hidden behind the dark red plastic on a clock radio. This kind of placement of hidden cameras is very common. Of course, if someone recently gave you a clock radio, you should suspect that it contains a hidden camera.
If you happen to have a video camera with the Night Shot, turn on the Night Shot feature and look through the viewfinder. The infrared in the Night Shot will see right through the dark red plastic common on the face of clock radios.
If you’re directly in front of a hidden camera lens, and you shine an ordinary flashlight at it, you’ll also see the reflection from the flashlight. If you don’t want to spring for the Spy Finder Hidden Camera Detector, use this method in your search. Remember though, you have to be directly in front of the camera.
Sometimes I get calls from people who think the person in the apartment upstairs is watching them with a hidden video camera. They invariably say that wherever they walk in their apartment, that they can hear the person following them upstairs, walking in the same places.
Video cameras are almost impossible to place in a floor to spy on a downstairs apartment. In New York City the floors are made of solid concrete. Even if you have wooden floors, it would create a mess in your apartment if someone started drilling in his floor to place a camera.
A note on Computers
The purpose of this booklet is to locate physical eavesdropping objects, devices that you can see. There are programs that can reside on your computer’s hard-drive that only a computer technician can detect.
Here is a rule: Never open an attachment to an email from a person that you do not know. Spyware is typically placed on your computer when you open an attachment. If you receive email, and click on an attachment, and nothing apparently happens, you may have allowed spyware to be placed on your computer.
You also have to be aware of physical key loggers. Unlike spyware, they are something that you can see. Key loggers record every keystroke that you make, including passwords, email, etc. They take a couple of different forms. One, attached between your computer and the cord going to your keyboard is pictured below. While the one pictured is blue, it could also be black or white. (Filters on computer cables look very similar, but you can differentiate them because they cannot be detached.)
When key loggers are employed, the person installing them has to retrieve them at some time in the future. They attach them to their own computer and a program downloads everything you typed on your computer while the key logger was installed.
How to sweep a small office
A small office sweep is similar to doing a sweep in a house. One of the main differences is that an office probably will have more electronic equipment, such as telephones, calculators and other small electronic equipment.
You should especially be careful of gifts you’ve recently received. I said “recently” because of what I wrote earlier in this booklet: that all bugs must have a power source. The power either comes from the wiring in the building, or batteries (in the case of phone taps, the phone line). Batteries do not last forever, so either someone has to get in to change them, or they’ll just go dead.
If you received a gift calculator just a few days ago, you should be suspicious of the gift. If you received one six months ago, if it had a bug, it’s dead now, so you don’t have to worry about it. (If you’re suspicious about, say, a calculator that you received as a gift, simply remove the batteries.)
You should be wary of any gifts you receive that you’re likely to use in the office, even plants. A transmitter can be placed in almost anything.
While this manual doesn’t tell you how to tell electronically if a telephone is tapped, you still can know with a reasonable amount of certainty whether your phone is safe. Employing the same method described for tracing phone wires in a home, you’ll want to do the same in an office. This will likely be more difficult in a small office than in a house, as there may be more phones. Also, you should start your search in the phone closet.
The phone closet will vary from office to office. It may literally be in a closet, or in a room dedicated to phone and computer equipment. At first, looking at the phone panel may be overwhelming.
Again, just like with the telephone interface on the outside of a house, what you’re looking for here are recorders and transmitters. Remember, electronic eavesdropping equipment needs a power source, either the buildings current, batteries, or the power in the DC-powered phone wires.
First, look at all the electrical outlets in the phone closet. Trace every plug in an outlet back to it source. Be sure that there are no plugged-in recorders. I’ve found cassette recorders in phone closets, but they were on Play, not on Record. They were playing music when the phones were on hold.
Next, look for recorders and transmitters on the phone lines themselves. These will be powered either by batteries or the phone lines themselves. This step may be time-consuming, but worth it. And remember, batteries are sometimes larger that the bugs or taps.
Systematically, follow every wire. If a wire goes into the ceiling or wall, follow it as far as you can. Use your flashlight if needed.
When following wires, look for “fat” taped wires...a small bulge in a phone wire. Carefully examine any that you find, as they could contain transmitters powered by the phone line’s direct current.
Examine the telephones themselves by taking the cover off. Some phone covers snap off, but most have about four screws on the bottom that will have to be removed. If there are any alligator clips in the phone, such as black-plastic-enclosed clips as in the photo below, know that your phone is tapped. There should be no alligator clips or electrical tape on any wires. All the wires should have a permanent look. There should be no loose wires or sloppy wiring.
Offices often have more than one phone that are identical in outward appearance. If there are two or more phones, take the covers off all of them and place them next to each other. All the phones should look identical on the inside. If one phone has “extra” parts, the phone is probably tapped.
(To be continued.)
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