Eavesdropping Devices: Do you know who is listening to you?

Eavesdropping devices, or ‘bugs’, are electronic devices used to intercept communications and transmit them to another location. Although most people think of eavesdropping devices primarily as gadgets designed to pick up on audio only, any covert instruments designed to acquire images and data can also be considered to be eavesdropping devices.

Eavesdropping devices have proliferated in recent years thanks to their increasing affordability and ready availability over the internet. All of the components to construct your own eavesdropping devices can easily be purchased from an everyday electronics store in kit form for around $10. It is not necessarily illegal to own or use an eavesdropping device since some types can be used for a number of legitimate purposes including nature study, locating plumbing leaks and termite detection. However in many places it is illegal to eavesdrop on someone’s private activities without their permission, so keep this in mind if you are considering buying and using eavesdropping devices.

Inexpensive eavesdropping devices and components sold over the counter are difficult to trace, and some common household items such as baby monitors and intercoms can easily be converted into eavesdropping devices. It is estimated that over 700,000 eavesdropping devices are now sold each year. So even though it may be illegal for someone to listen in on your private life, this does not guarantee that you will not be the target of illicitly used eavesdropping devices and you should take measures to protect your privacy where appropriate.

There are a number of different types of eavesdropping devices and these include wireless and wired microphones designed to pick up room conversations as well as wire taps. Apart from the obvious security threats posed by illegally operated eavesdropping devices, many people do not realize that some of their own household or office equipment could put them at risk for leakage of confidential information.

Baby monitors can function as eavesdropping devices as they transmit radio signals from their surroundings to the receiver at very high frequencies. Since babysitting devices are designed to be very sensitive they may also pick up on conversations happening in other rooms and broadcast them over the airways. The danger is that if someone else within a range of several blocks happens to be operating a baby monitor or a radio scanner at the same frequency, you will have unwittingly provided them with a convenient eavesdropping device that can now be used to monitor your private conversations.

Business owners should be aware that the wireless microphones that are often used to make presentations can also be used as eavesdropping devices since they are capable of transmitting a signal over long distances. A competitor has no need to plant illicit eavesdropping devices in your office if the presentations and meetings you think are being held behind closed doors are actually being transmitted via your wireless microphone system over a range of several hundred meters, or even kilometers.

The first step in protecting your privacy against eavesdropping devices is becoming aware of your individual or corporate vulnerabilities to attack. You can then take steps to safeguard yourself against illegal eavesdropping devices by using common sense, bug detectors and other technical surveillance counter measure services.

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