Thursday, May 13, 2010

De-bugging a conference room

A well-known NYC corporation contacted Sherlock Investigations to conduct a security check on their conference room because they were concerned that company secrets were being leaking.

I arrived for my appointment early and waited in the conference room. I quickly observed several “no-no’s.” First among them was the four speakers from which music was being piped. Speakers have the same features as microphones. It would be necessary to disconnect the speakers.

In the center of the table was a speakerphone used for conference calls. My plan was to check it thoroughly for wiretaps.

There were enormous windows overlooking Manhattan. Great view, but a laser could be aimed at those windows which would be able to pick up conversations around the conference table. Glass can act as a diaphragm such as are in microphones. Heavy curtains would have to be installed that could be drawn shut during meetings. They would also help to absorb the sound in the room.

Of course, I would have the conference room completely swept for electronic bugs. Every bug has to have a power source. It is common today to have a bug wired directly into the building’s power source. Usually, an electronic bug is placed in a wall outlet or in a lamp.

Unfortunately, employees are often the source of leaks. I would recommend that those attending meetings not bring their cell phones in to the conference room. The employees might not even knowingly be the source of the leak, but their cell phones might have been compromised. Cell phones can be used as listening devices.

You can purchase white-noise machines which do a fairly good job at masking voices, too. Some buy cellphone blockers, which are illegal in the United States.

A more elaborate security step would be to build a Faraday cage (a copper wire-enclosed room) or paint the room with RF shielding paint which is quite an expensive undertaking.

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

Friday, May 07, 2010

Wiretaps at the central office can't be detected

Businesses that have their offices swept for eavesdropping devices should be aware that wiretaps from the phone company's central office cannot be detected. This happens when a particular law enforcement agency, whether it be the NYPD or the FBI, convince a judge that criminal activity might be taking place. They then are able to get a court order to tap the company’s phones.
Whenever the Technical Division of Sherlock Investigations does an eavesdropping sweep to look for bugs and wiretaps, we caution potential clients that if they they are being investigated by a law enforcement agency we will will not do the sweep.

Typically, according to the FBI, they tap a phone at the phone company's central office. They then have the call forwarded to the FBI office at 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan. There, they listen to the phone conversations and record them on to tape. In spite of ads shown on the Internet, when the phone tap is happening at the central office, it cannot be detected.

The Galleon Group, a hedge fund based in New York City, had their offices swept at least twice. The CEO was arrested by the FBI for insider trading last year. In this case, a former employee cooperated with the authorities, which then tapped his, and others, personal cell phones as well as residential phones. It is not clear whether the office of The Galleon Group's phones were actually tapped. If they were tapped, it would have been done at the phone company's central office.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Is the cost of an electronic sweep worth it?

Electronic eavesdropping sweeps can be expensive. (The Technical Division of Sherlock Investigations is in the mid-range category.) The more sophisticated the threat the more expensive sweeps can be.

In the world of corporate espionage or government espionage the devices used are extremely sophisticated. The security office of corporations and embassies often have their own sweep teams.

Most people, though, don’t deal in such high-security threats. Still, they need protection, because the threats are often real.

As often happens, an employee that leaves to join or start another company often steals secrets. Occasionally, he will bug the previous office so that information can continue to be transmitted to a listening post elsewhere.

Business partners can have a parting of the ways. Before the partner leaves, and while he still has the authority, he might have an extension of the office phone installed in his home. Just having it installed is legal. Eavesdropping is not.

In divorce situations, occasionally the wife complains that her soon-to-be-ex inexplicably knows things about her. She tells us "it's as if he tapped my phone or placed a bug in my home or car". He may have done just that.

Considering what people can learn about you, the cost of electronic sweeps is relatively inexpensive. In fact, some firms have precautionary sweeps done on a regular basis throughout the year.

Remember, Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (Bug Sweeps) is a technical skill , not an investigative one. Beware of the private investigator who uses a bug detector obtained from the Internet. Unless he is highly trained, it is useless.

If you need a skilled consultant, contact us.