TSCM Investigations

TSCM Investigations

Q:What is a TSCM investigation?

A TSCM investigation is an investigation designed to uncover illegal eavesdropping in a client’s residence, business, vehicle, or other secured area. TSCM is the acronym for technical surveillance counter measures. More generally known as debugging or bug sweeps, a TSCM investigation generally involves the use of both technical and nontechnical methods to locate potential illegal surveillance against an individual or organization. 

Q:Are TSCM investigations common?

Yes, the US State Department estimates that hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal eavesdropping equipment is imported into the United States from a number of countries. Some of these devices are specifically outlawed in the United State but still find their way into the US to be used for illicit purposes. In addition, a number of legal surveillance devices are built and purchased within the United States annually. These devices can include anything from a $20.00 pocket recorder, GPS tracking devices, cell-phone monitoring software, and key stroke loggers on computer systems. The proliferation of these devices provides an ample opportunity for a bad actor to illegally monitor an individual’s communications, whereabouts, and activities.

We have found wiretapping devices in a number of types of cases, which have included economic espionage, competitor surveillance, disgruntled employees, divorces, high stake litigation and even overzealous criminal investigations. Surveillance many times is conducted on a routine basis throughout the United States. Unfortunately, some actors take that to the next level and conduct illegal surveillances on individuals. Uncovering that illegal surveillance can be critical for your case or situation.

Q:Am I a potential target of eavesdropping?

Some of the signs that you may be compromised by a wire tap or eavesdropping device will be the following:

Eavesdroppers generally do not conduct such intrusive surveillance unless there is value in the information they receive. That value can be monetarily, or it can have national, political, social, or other interest to the bad actor. Generally, determining whether you are a potential target should be an evaluation of whether the discovery of your confidential activities significantly assist another individual or organization. Other than in a domestic relationship situation, eavesdropper rarely engage in this highly illegal behavior without the potential return of great benefit. Historically, we have found that most potential targets can include the following:

  • Political candidates
  • American owned business in foreign locales
  • Hostile take over situations or changes in management.
  • Parties involved in high stakes personal or vindictive litigation.
  • Employees currently involved in labor negotiations or disciplinary matters.
  • Board of Director and shareholder meetings.
  • Detailed sales marketing or new product development meetings.
  • Meetings involving the high dollar purchase, investment, or monetary policy meetings.
  • Personal activities of well known celebrities.
  • Divorce and child custody litigation where the parties have become extraordinarily adverse.

Q:What are some warning signs that I have been bugged?

If you are a potential target and believe that you have been wiretapped, bugged, or illegally monitored, here are some of the red-flags that you should be aware of:

  1. People seem to know your activities when they shouldn’t. Whether it’s the illegal eavesdropper himself or, more likely, the client, many people have trouble sitting on your secret. Many times, illegal eavesdropping is revealed from the primary beneficiary. Whether inadvertent or not, it is critical to pay attention to what information is “fed back” to you and at what time. 
  2. You have noticed static, popping, or scratching on your telephone lines. Generally, these types of phone anomalies are caused by capacitive discharges which occurs when conductors are connected together. Although this is mostly under the old telephone line system, it is still prevalent today. These sounds could be nothing more than just a defect in your telephone instrument or the wiring system. But if it is routinely heard, it is an issue which you should contact a TSCM professional in an attempt to resolve.
  3. Sounds are coming from your phone handset when it is hung up. A common wiretapping method is known as a hook-switch-bypass method. Most usually located in corporate offices, the hook-switch-bypass allows for the transmission of audio through the telephone unit when the phone is hung up. This is usually done by manipulating the telephone to allow the speaker phone function to actively transmit to another location. Generally, this location is within the building and within the phone system area. If you hear this type of anomalies on an office desk phone, it is critical to open the phone and determine whether manipulation has occurred.
  4. Someone has broken into your residence, office, or vehicle but nothing has been taken. Many eavesdroppers need to access the target area in order to install a device. Professional eavesdroppers will often break into a residence or office and very rarely will leave any direct evidence of a break in. Sometimes, the owner of the residence or office will often report to us that furniture is not in its right location, their office desk phone appears to be newer, or different than their prior one, there is light dust or ceiling debris on or near carpeted areas, discoloration has appeared on a wall or ceiling and/or electrical wall plates have appeared to have been slightly moved or jarred in an odd area. These signs in particular may determine even the type of method under which eavesdropping has occurred. For instance, if the phone appears to be the same make and model but now looks newer or cleaner than your prior phone, it is likely that the phone is housing a hook-switch-bypass or has been manipulated in some way to monitor your conversations. If an electrical outlet has been moved or set ajar, it is likely that an eavesdropper has used the power lines throughout your residence to transmit either audio or video. Generally, called a carrier current device, these devices are extraordinarily popular in a number of over the counter camera and audio monitoring devices. The most popular being the baby monitor. If there is discoloration on any wall or ceiling, this is generally a tell-tale sign that electronics are behind that location. Such devices as a pin hole camera for instance, by necessity require it to be flushed with the dry wall or ceiling tile of a location does transmitting heat onto the wall or ceiling.
  5. Your AM/FM radio in your car or office has suddenly developed interference. A number of amateur and low-grade eavesdropping devices generally use frequencies that are within the FM radio band. Even professional eavesdroppers will use a FM-radio device and mask it as being very close to a FM radio signal. If you begin to hear squealing on these older FM/AM radio devices, that feedback can be indicative of one of these types of wiretap devices. Sometimes such transmitters can interfere with both radio, as well as older UHF television devices. Obviously, the above would not be applicable to satellite radio, online listening devices such as Pandora and Spotify, or even newer cable and satellite provided TV.
  6. You have recently been provided an electronic device such as a desk radio, alarm clock, desk lamp, audio player, pen, desk calculator, or other small gift. Generally, these are given by salesmen, vendors, employees, or other individuals. Such gifts are generally well meaning and are kept and are kept around your office. However, a number of devices are manufactured for an extraordinarily low price that include hidden cameras and microphones in an attempt to monitor your conversations and transmit them to another location. This method is extraordinarily common, and every executive should be careful of the gifts that they receive from any party.