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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Are you being spied on?

In this day and age when almost everyone is an exhibitionist, it's not surprising to find people selling themselves to anyone who can afford to buy them, and acting out their wildest fantasies in front of a global audience - courtesy a webcam.

But what really terrifies simpler souls these days is the kind of scenario played out in the Mahesh Bhatt hit flick 'Kalyug'. In the movie, an innocent couple get torn apart because of a porn CD - starring the young wife and allegedly made by the husband, whose obviously framed. But in reality, porn CDs have been circulating in India for a while now - of lookalikes of famous celebs to honeymooning couples, who didn't know how they were filmed making love. Scary isn't it?

Your most intimate moments can now be used to humiliate and blackmail you. That sadly, is the flip side of technological advancement. What couldn't be thought of only a few years ago, is now, a nightmare than can happen to the anyone of us.

So, taking some precautions might be in order. Watch out for hidden spycameras in changing rooms. The bigger stores will, hopefully, not violate your privacy but always be careful in smaller shops. The same thing would be advisable in unfamiliar public toilets and in obviously seedy looking hotel rooms.

Unfortunately, Managing Director, Technocrats Security Systems, Nitin Munot told moneycontrol that, it's not easy to spot a spycam. And yes, he's heard of some hotel in the Chowpatty area and cottages at Madh Island and Marve, where spycams have been installed, obviously without the knowledge of the occupants. But he also says, "This kind of work is not likely to be done by established people but by small firms or even individuals, who buy the spycam abroad and then install it here."

Since spycams can be even be bought (relatively) cheaply at Rs 30,000 or so, nothing is sacred anymore. As there is no way to spot a spycam with just your eyes, Munot suggests that if you see a hole, that shouldn't be there (it can be as small as a pin-sized hole), especially at the bed-level in a hotel room, then it might be wise to dig further, literally! Use your fingers to probe around and see if anything is there and yank it out.

He adds, "Spycams usually are not installed in the ceiling because it means a lot of structural work, to have them put in." But it's scary, just how easily a bug can be placed - sometimes in very visible ways. For instance, an innocent looking cellphone that is left to charge in a room could be a bug! So, if you are suspicious of being bugged and watched, then get a bug tracker quickly. That's the only thing that will help.

Spycams apart, there are also bugs you need to worry about. Not bed bugs but of the the electronic kind. Private phone conversations have been printed in newspapers, so if you are in top secret business talks, or even just dirty talking to your spouse, you wouldn't want to be overheard. But the greater horror would be if somebody eavesdropped on you with the help of a bug.

There is bug tracking gear available that can easily detect a spycam around a 30 feet radius. You take a bug detector in your hand and walk around the area. When this detector finds a surveillance bug or a spy camera of some kind, the LED will light up and notify you about it. Additionally, a beeping sound will change from slow to rapid, indicating that you’re near the surveillance bug.

If you don’t want to make any noise (meaning you want to secretly track down any bugs without making others suspicious), a bug detector allows you to turn off all the sounds. Some bug detectors will even allow you to see exactly where a bug is, on a LCD screen. Neat, isn’t it?

Ironically, bugs and spycams work on the same wavelength - literally. They work on radio frequencies, RF, of up to 2GHz or 3GHz frequency detection. That means if a spy camera works in that range (most do), a bug detector will spot it. However, if your eavesdropper is sophisticated and tech savvy, they will know this. So, they simply increase the frequency of a spy camera or a phone bug, in which they operate.

Then you will need to up the ante as well, and use more advanced bug detectors that can detect even 8.5GHz RF signals in the room. Such bug tracking devices cost more, but you also feel safer, because they will spot almost any spy bug and spycam you can think of.

If you’re bug tracking in your house or some other area, you should turn off some devices, like wireless networks, televisions and cellular phones, so they wouldn’t interrupt your bug tracking process.

So, can surveillance bugs track down wired spycams? Well, the good news is that most bug detectors can track almost any wireless device that uses radio frequencies (RF), whether it is a phone bug, wireless mini hidden camera or a bluetooth spycam.

Earlier, detecting hard-wired surveillance cameras was a little problematic because they did’t use radio signals to transmit data. So, a regular bug detector couldn’t find a wired spycam hidden inside the room.

A wired spycam contains a horizontal oscillator, which operates at about 16KHz. So, a regular RF based bug detector can’t recognize it. However, newer technology bug tracking devices have low frequency receivers, which can detect such spy bugs easily.

Need to buy a bug detector? Check these options: http://nservices.com/bug.htm
Written for www.moneycontrol.com


Anonymous said...

Good tips and advice, keep it coming.
Oh and if you do find a bug in the wall and pull it how do you link it to the owner.

Manali said...


I should think that if the bug was in your hotel room, then creating a scene with the manager, calling the police in and demanding a refund is in order. Then I think the culprit is obvious. Similarly, in a store. Who else, but the management of these places would be aware of these things in the first place..don't you think so?