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How to sweep for bugging devices

How to sweep for bugging devices

Bug Sweeping

Have you ever wondered if you are being bugged or listened to when you are in a private place, and how to sweep for bugs with a detector or what to look out for with your naked eye?

Firstly, it is important that most of the time there is no bug as very often coincidence or deliberate baiting can cause someone to feel like there is a bugging device, but there isn’t.

For the other occasions where you are sure there is a listening device, follow these steps to be sure.

Selecting the right detector

Now, you will need to invest in a bug detector/RF detector, a detector picks up radio frequencies that are transmitted in the room.

Although you still need a good set of eyes to help find the device, they will certainly point you in the right direction. When looking online you will see they can range from a few dollars, to the price of a new car, so what is the difference?

Without going into too many details it all comes down to what they can pick up and what they can’t.


A good quality bug detector:
  • Is generally hand tuned (it is individually tested and tuned for greater sensitivity)
  • Has a higher frequency range (It detects more frequencies therefor more devices)
  • Has better filters (so you don’t detect false signals)
  • Has a sturdy metal case (so it lasts for years)

A cheap detector:
  • Is mass produced (and hardly tested)
  • Has a lower frequency range (or missing segments)
  • Has no filters (so it has lots of false readings)
  • Is plastic and will probably not last


Generally, around the $500 to $2,500 is a good starting point for a reliable detector that will serve you well and last you for years.

Now that you have your detector, what next?

Preparing to sweep

To sweep your home or office you will need to prepare the environment, so turn off your:

  • WIFI
  • Bluetooth devices
  • Cordless phone
  • Mobile phone
  • All other wireless devices
  • Ensure nobody uses the microwave oven

Now theoretically you should have zero transmitting devices, so it’s time to sweep.

But before you start, there are some devices that do give a signal, the most obvious is a flat screen TV or monitor as the processor emits a signal, but other devices with processors may also give a reading, like your PC, or laptop, so don’t be too alarmed if you pick up a signal within 20cm of these devices, this is normal and if you unplug them, the signal should stop immediately.

Now it’s time to calibrate your device.

Most detectors have a sensitivity dial or setting and either a row of LED lights or a clicker/buzzer. You need to stand in the middle of the room and turn the dial up full where all the lights are on, and then slowly turn it down until just the last light is flickering, now your device is calibrated to the area.

Starting the sweep

To get the best results you need to understand the nature of the equipment you are searching for, they will be an audio device with a microphone that transmits, so with this in mind you can easily disregard some places with motors as this will make the bug deaf and unable to pick up voices etc., like fridges, air conditioners, heaters, etc. You can also disregard wet places like kettles, drains, etc., as these will damage the device.

Another thing to know before we start is the RF signals are everywhere and they act like rivers or wind, meaning you can be standing in a river of RF from your local cell tower and not be aware. Have you ever had bad reception on your phone and taken one step and its better? This is important to know as these rivers may flow through your premises and you need to have a strategy to overcome the false readings.

And lastly some bugs can only be detected from about 20cm, so you need to check everywhere, under every table, under every piece of furniture, across every inch of ceiling, across every inch of wall.

When sweeping hold your detector and move your arms in arcs, both horizontal and vertical as antennas can act in a polarised manner, just like batteries, if you put a battery in a device backwards, the device won’t work, if your detector antenna is horizontal and the bug antenna is vertical they won’t detect as well and could be missed.

Now slowly and methodically move through the area performing your arc sweeps checking within 20cm of every surface while you search for unauthorised listening devices. As you move around your lights may increase a little here and there, this is normal and nothing to be concerned about as there is signal everywhere.

If you get a stronger signal use the detector to focus in on the position until the lights are all on, then reduce the detectors sensitivity again and keep honing in until you have found the source.

At this point you should be able to take over with your eyes to look at where the device will be hidden, remembering that electronics need power, so it will either be in another electrical item like a power board, double adapter, lamp, etc., or have a noticeable battery pack. Remember that most listening devices need to last several months so if they cannot access permanent power, the battery pack will be quite large, otherwise they will need to enter and replace batteries every day.

What if it is inside a wall, well before you rip off the plaster board, go around to the other side of the wall and walk backwards, if the signal does not disappear, you may be in a river of RF from a nearby radio tower or cell tower. But if the signal does weaken as you walk away from each side of the wall, it may warrant further investigation, or a call to a professional.

During your sweep keep your eye out for unusual things like any of the following:

  • Hand marks in dusty areas
  • Hand marks around manhole
  • Debris on the floor or other areas from drilling
  • Light switches slightly moved
  • New objects you don’t recognise
  • Small black holes in objects that could have a microphone behind them
  • Your items have been rearranged


If you have an FM radio, slowly go through all the frequencies and see if you can detect an FM listening device. FM transmitters are very common and possibly the most used due to their low price point.

A sweep for bugs should always include a thorough physical inspection of the room for anything that seems out of place. Items such as light switches, light fixtures, smoke alarms, power points, clocks, exit signs, etc. should be thoroughly examined it see if they appear new or a bit out of place.

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How to find IP cameras on your home or business network

How to find IP cameras on your home or business network

Introduction

Here we will go over a couple of simple steps to search your network for IP cameras. This is useful when you are adding your own, or checking if someone else has added one.

There have been times where we scan for cameras we have just added, and found cameras the clients didn’t know were there, so it’s good practice to have a quick check now and then.

http://arllc.net/findipcam/

Advanced IP scanner

If you are looking for a more powerful solution that can scan deeper into your networks and cover more ranges, then we use Advanced IP Scanner.

Firstly you will need to download it from the below link, then once it is installed away you go.

The operation is reasonably straight forward, and to check each IP address, simply add them into IE (internet explorer) as per the web based method and away you go.

The program is free and very well known so there are a lot of resources online on how to get the most out of it.

https://www.advanced-ip-scanner.com

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Bug Detector Buyers Guide

Bug Detection Buyers Guide

Buying a bug detector may not be a sign of paranoia or an unwarranted worry. There are many ways other people can bug your room and tap into your private life.

The head of a screw attached to a wooden cabinet can covertly record your every move and word. Covert listening devices, also known as bugs or wires, can be fitted into small, inconspicuous, everyday items such as pens, calculators, and even shirt buttons.

If you have any suspicions that you might have been bugged by a business competitor or a distrustful spouse, you have to search for those bugs and disable them or knowing where they are you can provide false conversations to them.

You cannot simply look for them as you need a detector to show you where to look. An office block or a normal house would take days to search for with the likelihood of finding it without a bug detector slim at best.

Bug detection is a mix of a quality detector and a keen human eye, without either the process is flawed and you are unlikely to find what you are looking for or you are likely to feel there are bugs everywhere.

Detectors

The first thing to know about Bug Detectors, like most other surveillance technologies is that you get what you pay for. Professionals spend 10s of thousands of dollars on a detector for the primary reason that they detect at a high level.

The majority of people of course could never expect to spend that, however spending $100 or even under that to protect a company or someone in a relationship break-up is probably not worth the investment.

Most detectors over about $400 are handmade, or at least hand tested individually so you know they actually pick up bugging devices. Many below that range are mass produced with turnover in mind second to the unit actually working.

So since Bug detectors range from under $100 to about $10,000, the question begs as to why the price range, yet the cheaper ones seem to cover just as much, if not more.

Well it comes down to the following:

Filters

The first thing that improves with price are filters. Although the cheaper units pick up everything, and we mean everything, the better quality units can filter out ambient signals. For example a cheap unit will pick up a nearby radio station, but a professional unit will know it’s a radio station etc. and allow that to be blocked. This saves you smashing a hole in the wall or dismantling furniture because the local radio station transmission stream appears to come from there.

The other thing a better detector has (from about $200+) is that you have a sensitivity dial. So you can start it up and adjust dial so with ambient signals, the detector is quiet. Then when you get near a device you can clearly see the change. Without a good sensitivity adjustment things can appear quite scary.

Frequency coverage

You really need to get a bug detector that covers from about 1MHz to 6GHz to cover the majority of the risks, however for a serious threat a detector that goes over 20GHz would be recommended.

The better units will have a more defined and accurate frequency range without blind spots. For example we have used detectors made for UK, in Australia they can miss certain 3G areas. This when combined with the new series of GSM bugs being 3G compatible clearly that detector becomes less likely to find some bugs.

Quality/reliability

Most people cannot test to see if a bug detector actually does what it says. At best you can call someone on a cordless phone or mobile and see what happens. Since you are testing only a possible few hundred frequencies out of a possible 25 billion it is hard to know if you are safe and if the detector actually works at all.

Monitoring options or protection mode

Some premium detectors have what is called protection mode and earphones. This allows you to go through all the detections, listen to them and mark as safe. The detector will ignore them in the future and only detect new devices.

A good detector will notify in between a few seconds and a minute or so when a new transmitter is detected making the detection of new devices and burst bugs much easier.

These offer a far greater layer of protection, but come at a price.

Some other features you may find in detection equipment

  • Audio plug so you can listen to the bug via earphones from the detector
  • Silent mode with vibration
  • Silent mode with display
  • Signal strength graph which is vital for locating bugging devices
  • Protection mode as discussed above
  • Rechargeable
  • Frequencies from 0.5MHz to 25GHz (and more)
  • Robust metal housing as they do get knocked around

Types of bugs

Standard RF Transmitter

A standard RF (radio frequency) transmitter is without doubt the easiest to detect as they constantly pour out a stream of RF which makes them easy to detect and track. These transmitters are most common with low end systems and homemade devices and normally run on VHF and UHF frequencies.

GSM

GSM bugs are harder to detect as they are dormant whilst not transmitting and furthermore the signal is the same as the ambient mobile phone signals in the area.

GSM bugs are widely available online, however most are 2G which is in an end of life cycle in Australia. 3G units are more expensive and less widely used.

A detector that can support a protect mode will be more suitable for these devices.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi bugs are also sometimes used and these can be both sometimes easy to detect and sometimes more difficult due to the ambient Wi-Fi signals in your area.

Basically the same rules apply as GSM and burst bugs, however sometimes if you notice a new Wi-Fi device when you scan with your mobile it can be a clue.

Burst

A burst bug has a memory, so generally they record to themselves all day and then transmit the days recording in a short burst. These are harder to detect as they are only transmitting a detectable signal for a short time each day, normally in the early hours whilst people are asleep.

Burst bugs are not as common, but are widely used by a more professional surveillance expert, or someone they advise.

A detector that can support a protect mode will be more suitable for these devices.

Self-recording (retrievable)

Opinions vary about these, but from our experience self-recorders, like voice recorders etc. generally are extremely difficult to detect, however these units need to be accessed every couple of days or so to recharge and extract recordings from.

Most users of these have several units and will visit the location and do a quick swap.

Electronic bug detection in a DIY format is unlikely to detect these, however they are normally placed in an easily accessible place and are at least the size of your thumb so they can be found with a physical search.

Hidden cameras

This subject really needs an article all by itself as the detection of wireless cameras can be more difficult. However if you have a quality detector and purchase a separate lens detector or small hidden camera detector with lens detector (these have an eyepiece to look through which makes lenses shine or even sparkle) then you will have a good shot at finding it.

Basic use

Each and every bug detector has varied and unique features and to get the most out of your new detector you should study it and search the web and YouTube for bug detection techniques.

In the most simplistic form you should follow these rules:

You may not detect some bugs until you are 0.5m away, so put the detector everywhere

The antenna length alters the frequency sensitivity so if you get a detector with telescopic antenna sweep once full extended and once only extended a few inches

Signals are polarised similar to batteries, this means if you are holding the antenna up and the bug is horizontal it will be harder to detect. Always sweep vertically in an arc and then horizontally in an arc. This will cover most angles.

Preparation

A general sweep of the house or office and make note of each signal, then turn off the mains and check again. This will help you identify signals that are affected by turning off the mains.

Most good bugs are independent from power, however some rely on it, so although this will not tell you in a simple yes or no format if there is something there, when some common sense is applied you should quickly discern if a particular device is acting suspiciously.

Some household items will always show up, these may include your flat screen TV, some fridges and other devices. If the item in question still has output after turned off at the power point then further investigation may be required.