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TECH NEWS: HOW TO SWEEP FOR BUGS AND HIDDEN CAMERAS

Truly spy-grade bugs often incorporate mechanisms to try to defeat scanners, so you’ll have more success if you conduct multiple types of sweeps than if you rely on a one-size-fits-all approach.

IF YOU’RE FACING targeted security threats, your problems run deeper than spyware on your devices. You need to check your physical spaces as well—your home, hotel room, office, and so on—for hidden cameras, mics, and other eavesdropping tools that someone may have planted. That means performing regular “technical surveillance counter measures” inspections. In other words? Checking for bugs.

“Hackers bug lots of places, including some people wouldn’t think of,” says Jill Johnston, president of KJB Security Products, a security and surveillance device wholesaler. “Tanning beds, dressing rooms, bathrooms, hidden cameras in an Airbnb, on your car, in your house. You want to be able to scan a room and feel safe.”

LOOK AROUND, LOOK AROUND

First, take a close look at your surroundings. Carefully check for anything new or out of place, and listen to your gut about whether anything seems off. You don’t have to see the bug itself; installing eavesdropping devices can involve changes as subtle as shifting an object or a piece of furniture. A bug could be lodged in an inconspicuous object planted in plain sight, or it could be glued behind a small hole drilled in a wall.

Next, review the list of devices that are connected to your router for any that you don’t recognize. Usually bugs that need internet connectivity will have a more clandestine plan for accessing the web, though, like using their own hotspot or SIM card, so also check the Wi-Fi networks with a strong signal available around you. Anything that’s not coming from a neighbor or a nearby business, or other likely suspect, could be a bug’s own network.

Bugs always need a way to deliver the data they’re gathering to their owners, so deep bug sweeps should go beyond regular electronics detection to scan for laser beam and microwave transmission setups. These rigs can encode and send data out of a room to an attacker without using traditional methods. Radiofrequency scanners with a wide enough range check for microwaves, and many general-purpose antisurveillance tools feature laser-detection modes.

REGULAR UPKEEP

Sweeps also shouldn’t be one-off occasions. Record your results, especially if you don’t find anything suspicious, so you can establish a baseline that will help you compare readings over time and detect anomalies down the road. Persistent spectrum analyzers, like Delta X, will watch for changes on a number of different feeds over time, but they cost about $14,000.

It takes Jim Hopper from Stranger Things a long time to tear his house apart looking for government bugs (spoiler: the mic is in an overhead light). And that’s in 1983, when there weren’t a lot of electronics to check. If the process seems daunting or too pricey to undertake alone, there are always professional services who can sweep for you. “If you have a serious problem and it’s a serious threat, hire someone who has all the tools in their tool box and the expertise, and they’ll sweep,” says Spy Gadgets’ Marshall.

There’s a lot you can do yourself, though, before things get too expensive and complicated. Besides, if you’re in that deep, there might not be anyone left you can trust except yourself.

THE GUIDE TO DIGITAL SECURITY

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