Physical “BUGS”

Common eavesdropping devices

Example of Physical equipment for privacy invasion[6]

  • Recorders, which use a micro SD card as recording medium and can record up to 500 hours of conversation. Recorders can be used as planted devices or as body bugs. These can be placed in key-places or be used only when needed (e.g. during meetings)
  • GSM bugs which turn mobile telephones into bugging devices and cand transmit conversation to anywhere in the world
  • Hardwire bugs – considered one of the most reliable and efficient surveillance systems. They can be hidden in walls and ceilings and since these kinds of eavesdropping devices do not emit radio frequencies they are generally very difficult to detect . For examples, telephones are not a risk only when in use. Small electrical modification can leave the microphone on and ensure high quality audio surveillance of the whole room, with no radio waves activity.
  • Radio frequency transmitter which is at the lower end of the scale, inexpensive and easy to use. They are very popular with private investigators and individuals and though easily detected when targeted, they can be very efficient when placed in a non-suspicious environment.

The surveillance devices market seems to follow an ascending trend:

A BrickHouse Security[7] executive said sales of tiny devices that can be placed in a bag or clothing have been “almost doubling” each of the past three years. Spy devices are getting more popular year on year. Newspapers and magazines on these topics are now making into Top 10s[8] [9] [10].

From Flash Drive Cufflinks in Gold Casing, that cost only $50 and can help you smuggle in malware or surveillance software to spy coins that can transport micro SD cards and covert key-chain or button video cameras. Sure they look like toys for children, but what if someone in a sensitive position actually used them?

A list of incognito surveillance and information recording devices that can probably find their way into your office undetected. Some examples are:

  • The Pen-Sized Document Scanner[11] – just pass it over a sheet of paper or a photograph and it will capture and store the documents, ready to be uploaded via USB or Bluetooth to any computer.
  • Pen Voice Recorder[12] has a secret activation switch and a very sensitive internal microphone to capture even the faintest of sounds
  • Tiny wireless camera[13] concealed in the head of a screw, operating on a single 9 volt battery
  • Wearable spy cameras[14] like eyeglasses or watches that can capture hours of video recording and store it.
  • Air freshener professional hidden camera[15], a motion activated, battery powered, self recording surveillance platform that blends into any environment with ease
  • Wireless mouse covert video camera[16]


Can the equipment be bought under $100? If so what are they usually?

Most online shops that sell covert surveillance equipment have an “under $100”[25] selection of products, many of which don’t give away their extra function[26].

For less than $100, anyone can get:

  • A hat camera[27] that records 2 hours of covert video per charge in HD footage with audio
  • A functional lightbulb[28] with concealed camera that runs on house power, captures a whole room and is motion-activated
  • an USB cable endoscope camera[29], that can be easily used to peep through a keyhole
  • Other concealed wearable video cameras or voice recorders, like sunglasses, ties, pins, lighters or pens

Most of the available low budget invasion of privacy equipment is surveillance oriented, with video or audio recording functions. Location trackers[30] are generally more expensive, with only data loggers available in this price range.


Vehicle GPS tracking

Another common tool for individual covert surveillance is the well-known GPS tracker, most commonly used on vehicles. GPS technology market has seen a constant growth in recent years, with GPS device embedded in cars, motorcycles, mobile phones, tablets, computers, tools, equipment, hardware, dog collars and even pillboxes.

Opportunities to use this technology for undercover monitoring are following the same trend. GPS trackers are widely available for anyone to buy and install and specific features turns them into very effective spying tools. With prices ranging from $50 to $350[63], GPS trackers are proving to be one of the most cost-effective methods of technical surveillance[64].

For short term unobtrusive surveillance, battery operated devices can be easily planted on a car by any outsider. Quick magnetic mounts allow the devices to be placed on vehicles in seconds. Motion-activated devices are tracking only when the car is moving, extending battery life while live-view software receives data in real time, with position updates every few seconds. Some of the low-cost devices are data-loggers, with no real-time trace function, but only recording GPS data for retrieval. They are easily removed and leave no trace.

For more consistent surveillance, hard-wired devices can be used. They are connected to a car’s power source and can stay in place for years with no maintenance. Given the fact that they are usually inactive when the vehicle is not moving, they are more difficult to detect and require professional services. For those who go through the trouble of planting a hard-wire device, it’s common to combine GPS tracking and audio transmitter.

Professional bug or tracker sweep services use both physical inspection and hi-tech tools to detect and locate devices planted on or inside the target vehicle. A tracking device can only be installed by the owner of the car[65] and by law it cannot be installed into a vehicle owned by a different person. The same legal frame applies to mobile phone monitoring software.

Anyone who fears he or she may be the victim of illegal covert surveillance should seek professional tracker detection services with licensed investigators that are able to provide valid evidence and expert testimony in court.



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