Ssssshhh…Are Listening Devices Stealing Your Secrets?

Due to covert listening devices we don’t know who might be listening to our private conversations or tracking our whereabouts. It may not concern you if you never say anything you don’t want overheard. It greatly concerns businesses who guard their propriety information and manufacturers protecting their formulas, plans and financial numbers.

A covert listening device is often referred to as a “bug” or a “wire” and is most often a combination of microphone and a miniature radio transmitter. The practice of using bugs to collect private information is called bugging and is commonly used by police, in espionage, in corporate boardrooms and even in our homes and vehicles.

Some bugs are not designed as listening devices. Cell phones are one example of this. It has been widely reported that the FBI can remotely activate the microphone of a cellular phone even if the phone is not in use and can then listen to conversations in the cell phone’s location.

The FBI could also listen to conversations in a car equipped with emergency/tracking systems but an attempt to do so legally in 2003 resulted in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals prohibiting the activity.

What is important in the info above is not that eavesdropping may be illegal – it’s the fact that is it possible. Often the legality is only questioned if a legal court case is involved. That doesn’t stop people from attempting to listen to the conversations of others every day.

The counter measure to combat covert listening devices is to “sweep” for them with a bug detector which is a receiver that scans for radio signals. Low-tech devices can be purchased through ads in many magazines, can be built from designs available online and you may well find them at your local electronics store.

The covert listening devices that are used in industrial espionage are often quite sophisticated. The cost is not an issue for a company who wants to know what product the competitor is preparing to launch. The ability to listen in on a corporate meeting meant to discuss the private financial details of a company is invaluable to an investor hoping to buy that company. Price is not an issue for watchdog groups trying to get the goods on a political rival.

Manufacturers who also have huge research facilities (think pharmaceuticals) may well spend the money for covert listening devices that switch off and on to avoid detection. The latest intrusion device collects conversations in a database and submits the data in short bursts of radio activity which is detectable only when actively transmitting.

Once the province of James Bond and the CIA, covert listening devices are now available to the general public. They are used to save incriminating phone conversations, to determine whether a spouse is cheating and some parents report placing microphones in their teen’s room to eavesdrop on phone conversations.

The days when privacy concerns made people wary of implementing covert listening devices seem to be in the past. The broad dissemination of personal information made possible by computer technology seems to make gathering information by any means not only an acceptable business practice but also a solution for curious individuals.

To protect your privacy against against hidden listening devices, consider investing in a bug detector for security and peace of mind.

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