Locating Bugs

We are often asked, “How long will it take to do a sweep?” It depends on many variables: the type of structure; the proximity of the rooms; the number of rooms; the type and number of telephones and other factors. “Sweeps” of government facilities may take days because of complexities and utilization of “exotic” devices available to the government.

Some non-professional countermeasures technicians, when sweeping commercial facilities, walk around the rooms with a little black box with flashing red lights and an oscillating signal and (with a straight face) tell you that the room is “clean.”

Peter Wright, a retired Senior British Intelligence Office describes in his book “Spycatcher” how, in 1956, he assisted the planning of “Operation Dew Worm” by the Counterespionage Department of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The Russian embassy in Ottawa had recently burned and was in the process of rebuilding. The RCMP decided to utilize wired microphones to bug the embassy. When skillfully installed, they are almost impossible to detect.

After the Russians re-occupied the embassy, the RCMP heard sounds coming from the microphones. Later they suspected the telltale sounds of a Russian Technical Surveillance Countermeasure (TSCM) team in operation. However, they were assured that the Russians had instituted a “search” when they heard tapping at the walls for signs of hollowness and the running of metal detectors across the ceilings.

For twenty days the Russians “swept” the rooms containing the microphones as if they knew that the rooms had been “bugged.” However, the Russians found neither the microphones nor the hard wires attached.

Eight years later, the Russian TSCM team returned and went directly to the rooms “bugged” and within an hour had located all the microphones and hard wire. They searched only in the six rooms where the microphones had been planted. Mr. Wright concludes: “They must have known where to look!” Knowing where to look, what to look for and using the proper equipment is the key. Within the commercial area, where electronic eavesdropping is most prevalent, the technician that works alone and uses one or two pieces of equipment and is in and out in an hour or so is not doing his job!

On the other hand, the technician who spends his time looking for sophisticated devices costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and utilized by government against government is wasting the commercial client’s time and money.

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