Thursday, May 21, 2015

This Week's Interesting Questions - Author Asks for Upcoming Book

An author contacted me this week with a few questions. She is writing a book, "about hearing and our relationship with sound. A small section of the book looks at electronic eavesdropping." I am always glad to help. Here is how the interview went...

How did you get involved in surveillance detection?
It started with an interest in amateur radio, electronics and building projects in high school. During college I was introduced to the world of surveillance electronics and investigations during a summer job. I switched majors from mass communications to criminal justice. I took a job as an investigator with Pinkerton's Inc. and eventually became Director of Investigations for New Jersey and Director of Electronic Countermeasures company-wide. I left them to open my own Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM) firm in 1978 and have enjoyed every day since.

What characteristics do you think are useful in this business?
Inquisitiveness is the most important characteristic, by far, on the technical end. But to be successful, one needs to learn all aspects of how to conduct business (marketing, advertising, bookkeeping, personal relations, etc.)

You have some fascinating stories of spying on your website. How far will people go to listen in on conversations?
The phrase that comes to mind is, "Whatever it takes." I've seen everything from simple holes in the wall, to pre-bugged gifts sent in via mail, to planting spyware on smartphones.

What are some of the most extreme or unusual examples you have witnessed in your work?
A wired-up person who was part of an industrial plant tour: asking pointed questions of employees he met, dictating what he saw and read off of desktop paperwork, and recording the sounds of the manufacturing process for later reverse engineering.

A company that planted 14 bugs in their own offices, and then tried to blame their competitor for doing it, in a law suit. In the same vein, a company president who did a poor job of installing a wired microphone in the ceiling of the main conference room and had the cable leading to the office of a VP he was trying to frame. Neither group succeeded.

A trusted employee who planted a covert video camera in the women's locker room of a country club. (This type of issue is the latest epidemic in our field.)

How small are the smallest of covert listening devices today? Is the technology changing much? If so, in what ways?
The real "smallest" eavesdropping devices are software in nature – used to turn smartphones into bugs, and desktop/laptop computers into audio-video bugs. In terms of available hardware to make eavesdropping devices, the "smallest" components, such as microphones and video cameras, look like this...

(Smaller microphones are made, but these are indicative of the ones which are readily available.)

Is the technology changing much? If so, in what ways?

Eavesdropping and espionage technology is not changing, it is expanding.
New technology is being developed all the time, and the "old" technology isn't going away, it is being refined. Old technology still work. Old and new are being used today. As mentioned above, "Whatever it takes." This is why the recent high focus on IT/computer security won't solve the computer security problem. In order to hack, pre-attack intelligence is necessary. This is gathered using many of the "old" tools: social engineering, video surveillance, electronic eavesdropping, and black bag intrusions.

There is no information fresher and more valuable than the spoken word. It comes right from the brain, not from a computer, not from something written, from the brain. This is why people eavesdrop!