Friday, April 30, 2010

Sweeping a car for eavesdropping devices...without any special equipment

Sherlock Investigations is often called to sweep vehicles.

Eavesdropping devices placed in vehicles are often dormant. A hidden cell phone is hard to detect unless it is active, or transmitting.

There are two types of GPS trackers, active and passive. An active GPS device signals where the car is at all times. It has a built-in cell phone that calls the person who placed it about every two minutes and can be tracked via a computer.

One has to actually retrieve a passive GPS unit. When it is connected to a computer it shows where the car has travelled.

Usually, GPS units only operate when the car is moving. This is meant to save the life of a battery. So, if you’re looking for a GPS on a vehicle and it is parked, there is no movement, and so the GPS unit is dormant.

The best way to sweep a car is physically. A hand-held mirror is a good tool to use. (Be sure to get a plastic one, in case you touch any wires.)

The search should be done everywhere. Under the seats, in the glove compartment, under the dash, under the fabric in the back window etc.

Under the dash there are many wires and devices you have probably never noticed before. Check for wires that are sloppily installed and do not seem to be installed by the factory. Look for extra wires going to the antenna.

Sit in the driver’s seat and look around. Check the overhead map light, and the air vents. What you are looking for is a tiny microphone.

Next, check the undercarriage of the car. A GPS unit is usually attached by a magnet, or several magnets. It will be in a black plastic box, perhaps the size of a pack of cigarettes. (Google "GPS units" so you know what to look for.) Move around the exterior of the car carefully looking in every spot of the undercarriage.

This is best done if you have a mechanic put the car up on a lift. The mechanic can then help since he knows what belongs there.

Make sure to inspect the grill and the bumpers. Remember, GPS devices can be very small.

If you have questions, or need a professional sweep, contact me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What do bugging devices look like?

Sherlock Investigations often gets visits to our site from people who Google “what do bugging devices look like?” There is no easy answer to that question. It could be a simple device such as a recorder from Radio Shack, or something far more sophisticated. (Radio Shack sells a phone recording device that has to be attached to a small recorder.)

Eavesdropping devices can be obvious and not-so-obvious. They can be as small as a grain of rice, which are mostly used by the government, or for corporate espionage. The smaller the device, the more costly it is.

Remember, every electronic device has to have a power source. Many are powered by a nine-volt battery, or eight triple-A batteries. The eavesdropping device is often bigger than the battery. Some bugs are even powered by hearing-aid batteries.

Those devices that are not powered by batteries run on the building’s electrical system. Most of these are found in wall outlets. They can either be transmitting cameras or microphones.

Any good TSCM (technical surveillance countermeasures) person can locate and neutralize all of the above.

One way to see what bugging devices look like is to browse the Internet. Use search terms such as “bugging devices,” “eavesdropping devices,” or “wiretaps.” Mostly, you will see devices that are available from spy shops. Many of the bugs that are sold in spy shops come from overseas because they are illegal in the United States.

On the Sherlock Investigations web site we have a photo of a small transmitter that has a microphone. Our PDF manual, “Bug Off!”, has photos of various eavesdropping devices. It is a free download.

If you need a professional TSCM person, contact me.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Finding legal wiretaps

Sherlock Investigations received a call from a business owner telling us that his ex-partner had formed a rival company. We received a call from a woman who was concerned that her husband, whom she was in the process of divorcing, seemed to inexplicably know all her personal business.

We swept the business owner's offices and checked the phones for possible wiretaps. Nothing. We went to the woman’s home and searched the premises for possible taps. Also, nothing.

In both cases, legal phone taps were ordered from the phone company. In the first instance, the former partner originally ordered the phones. The phone company knew his name and assumed he was still associated with the business. Before he left the firm to start the rival business, he ordered an OPX to go to his new place of business. An OPX is an Off Premise Extension. With an extension phone he could record the bids presented to clients from the former company.

In the case of the woman, the phone was in her husband’s name. He had an FX installed on the line where he and his wife lived together. An FX is a Foreign Exchange going to a different area code. He told the phone company that he needed an extension for his vacation home--where he actually lived. When the phone rang, he picked it up after his wife did and was able to listen-in.

It’s illegal to eavesdrop on people’s phone conversations, but nevertheless it is done all the time. If you suspect your phone is being tapped, call the phone company’s business office and ask if there is an OPX or FX on your line, or just ask them if there is an extension on your phone.

For professional counsel contact me.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

'Physical' Search For Wiretaps and Bugs is Necessary

In wiretap detection we physically feel all the wires leading to the phones, because a wiretap is often very small. Some professionals tap a phone by splicing a tiny electronic bug into the phone wire and then placing electrical tape over it, trying to make it appear as if the wire has been spliced. Actually take the phone apart and look for anything that does not seem to belong. If possible, compare two phones of the same make and model to each other. They should look alike.

When conducting a physical bug inspection, be thorough and look for anything out of the ordinary. It may be the only way to detect wired microphones, recorders, fiber optic bugs, or dormant bugs.

Research Electronics International, a leading manufacturer of counter-surveillance equipment, which has one of the foremost training facilities for Technical Surveillance Counter-Measures says, “A physical search is the root of all counter-surveillance work. It also overlaps other procedures.”

If you need a consultation or professional debugging advice please contact us.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spies among us?

Corporate espionage is big business. Corporations have billions of dollars invested in new products, models, and research. Obviously there’s much at stake and the competition is fierce.

We’ve had many cases that involved sweeping conference rooms prior to major business meetings. Recently the Technical Division of Sherlock Investigations electronically swept a conference room in a large hotel in Washington, D.C. prior to a major pharmaceutical company’s presentation of a new drug they were about to release. They obviously did not want their competition to know about it and wanted reassurances that their competition had not gone to extremes.

We started the sweep in the empty hotel conference room at four in the morning the day of the presentation. After finding no eavesdropping devices, a guard was posted at the conference room door.

In another case, a doctor at a well-known medical center in New York called Sherlock Investigations for a sweep. But first he wanted to get a sense of who we were and our trust-worthiness. After meeting with us, and being reassured he revealed that he was on the verge of a breakthrough for a cure for AIDS, and obviously many people would want to obtain this information.

A large construction company hired us to do a sweep in one of their offices. They had hired a retired F.B.I. agent who they suspected of leaking company secrets. They fired him and immediately had two security guards escort him out of the office. He was allowed to take only his personal belongings. They quickly called us in do a sweep of his office. Tucked away behind his desk, we found a device that recorded all the phone conversations onto his computer.

Some people are paid twice. One from the company they work for and another from the company that they are spying for. In essence, double agents.

You can prevent corporate espionage by having a reliable counter-surveillance company take a look at your company and it’s security procedures. Call now us for a free consultation.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Into the Blast: The True Story of D.B. Cooper

November 24, 1971 -- A man using the assumed name of "Dan Cooper" leaped from the aft stairway of a Boeing 727 jetliner after demanding four parachutes and $200,000 in cash. He was never seen again, and nearly forty years later, he has never been identified -- until now.

During the initial investigation, few in law enforcement suspected that the hijacker could actually be an employee of the airline, and that was their mistake.

Kenneth Peter Christiansen, a former World War II paratrooper and later a purser for Northwest Airlines, was the man who pulled off the boldest unsolved crime in history.

Skipp Porteous of Sherlock Investigations, New York, and Robert Blevins of Adventure Books of Seattle present the case that Christiansen and Cooper were one and the same.

Into The Blast shows how Kenny Christiansen planned the hijacking of NWA Flight 305, what motivated him to do it, who helped him on the ground, and what he did with the money afterward. More than thirty pictures, as well as interviews with the witnesses, reveal the truth in this fascinating book.

Soon available in bookstores and on

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Listening device found in car

I got a call on a Sunday from a client in Staten Island who thought her cellphone might be bugged. I asked if it was a smart phone? “No,” she replied. “Just an ordinary cellphone.” Thinking it was not bugged, I asked, “Where do you mostly talk on your phone.”

“In my car,” she said. “Maybe your car is bugged,” I said.

So I, and my equipment, headed to Staten Island. She told me she was going through a nasty divorce. Her husband owned a chain of pharmaceutical companies and traveled a lot.

Her car was parked on the street. It was a new Jeep SUV. I inspected the car top to bottom. Nothing. Sitting in the driver’s seat, I still had the feeling that the car was bugged.

I looked into the rearview mirror. Then I saw it. A burred screw on the map light just above the mirror. Knowing that it was a new car I knew that it was unlikely the bulb in the map light had been replaced. It was more likely that it had been tampered with.

I removed the two screws in the map light and found a tiny microphone and small circuit board—about the size of a postage stamp—with two wires leading from them. One wire went to the battery, and the other went to a cellphone hidden in the roof.

When the estranged husband wanted to listen in to his wife on her cellphone, he would call the hidden cellphone. Of course, it didn’t ring. If his wife was in the car at the time and on her phone, he could listen to her side of the conversation.

I cut the wires and removed the phone. All the numbers he called from on trips around the country were registered on the phone. My client told me that two weeks ago her husband had taken the car in for “servicing.” She thought he was being uncharacteristically nice.

I gave the bug and my written report to the client. I don't know the outcome of the divorce, or of the illegal bugging.

A physical inspection is necessary in finding potential hidden eavesdropping devices. If you need a free consultation please contact me.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Someone could be watching you on a hidden camera

We are so used to surveillance cameras. They are everywhere: in stores, businesses, elevators, lobbies, schools, and on the street. They are for our protection—a deterrent of sorts. Police use surveillance video to help solve crimes.

These cameras are visible and public, and they are used for good. However, hidden cameras obtained from spy shops or the Internet may, unfortunately, not be used for good.

Sometimes disgruntled spouses, landlords, building superintendents, employers or neighbors install them to spy on you. They are installed in bathrooms, dressing rooms and bedrooms—places where you expect, and rightfully so, to have privacy.

There are two versions of hidden cameras: hard-wired or wireless. Hard-wired cameras operate off the building’s wiring. Sometimes they have a cable going to a monitor, and often, to a recording device such as a DVR. Sometimes hard-wired cameras transmit images through the air to a receiver, which includes a monitor and recorder.

Wireless cameras operate on a small battery or batteries, and they transmit the video through the air to a monitor or recording device nearby. The thing you need to know with wireless cameras is that someone has to change the battery every day or so, which means they need free-access to the area where the device is positioned.

Cameras can be hidden in many places, i.e. clock radios, wall clocks, electrical outlets, paintings, plants, books, and sprinklers, just to name a few. The only limit is the imagination of the perpetrator.

It is illegal to place a hidden camera in an area where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The planting of the camera may also require the illegal act of trespassing.

Hidden camera finders can be purchased on the Internet for as little as $89. The Spyfinder Camera Detector is one of the ones I use in my work. It looks for the camera lens. It can detect hard-wired and wireless cameras, even if the power is turned off or the battery is dead. As is in all things, it is important to know how to use it.

If you suspect there is a hidden camera in your residence, office or car, contact me. I can detect it and remove it. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you who put it there, but you probably have a suspect in mind.