Help me detect hidden cameras/microphones
March 4, 2009 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Help me to detect hidden cams/microphones in a room. I have reason to believe that my friend's house has been bugged by her ex-husband and im looking for easy ways to find and remove these bugs.

It may sound a bit paranoid, but there have already been other examples where he has tried to "track" her. First by putting a tracking program on her cellphone, and then by putting a GPS-tracker in her car. He then proceeded to follow her around and she involved the police at this point. He just got a warning and the devices were confiscated.

Now we have reason to believe he's at at it again. He's showing a eerie knowledge of what hours of the day she is home in, and information about personal matters he can't possibly know. Hence the suspicion that her home may be bugged with cameras or microphones. (i've checked her cellphone which is clean).

I've seen some detector devices on the internet, how effective are they? Example:
And is there any other method to detect them? Im guessing the microphones are sending out low-frequency noise and the cam must be using some other wave-length emissions i can somehow detect. Also if its wireless there's bound to be some RF noise.

Thanks in advance
posted by kampken to Technology (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
A basic piece of gear is going to be a frequency counter that will scan and yes what you found should do that. I expect you can pay someone to 'sweep' the house for a fee. If you've got some friends who are Amateur radio operators (hams) they may have a frequency scanner that you can borrow.

Sounds like a restraining order may be in someone's future....

Good luck .... be careful ....
posted by sandpine at 6:53 AM on March 4, 2009

There is a home-made technique for trying to locate hidden cameras here. I don't know how effective it is.
posted by procrastination at 6:58 AM on March 4, 2009

Depending on what sort of information this persons seems to have, you should also check all computers that your friend uses and change passwords for email and other online accounts.
posted by davidstandaford at 7:10 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

First off. If she has a wireless router. Make sure that the wireless network is password protected. Some hidden cameras use wifi.

Also the cameras have to get there power some how. Go looking for weird plugs .
posted by majortom1981 at 7:31 AM on March 4, 2009

Is she averse to contacting the police again? I don't know where you are, but in most civilized places it's illegal to place someone under surveillance or intercept their communications without their consent. If they've previously seized tracking devices they'll take it seriously. Let them sweep the place.
posted by hayvac at 7:32 AM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

nthing call the police again, or maybe a private investigator. I can think of a lot of ways a house could be under covert surveillance, but not an exhaustive list. If the ex is really motivated or really skilled, there are any number of tools and techniques he could be using. A pro would have a better shot than Random Internet People (myself included), which is why the police and/or a PI would probably be a good call in a case like this.

That aside, I'd look for compromised computers before compromised physical security, honestly -- it's much easier and cheaper to "bug" a computer than it is to install physical bugs, particularly if he's tech saavy. Depending on how thoroughly the machine is compromised, removing such toys could be as simple as looking at the Task Manager and regedit or as annoying as a full reinstall. While you're at it, check for foreign hardware (keyloggers, etc) connected to the machine.
posted by Alterscape at 7:47 AM on March 4, 2009

Does her computer have a web cam or microphone? It seems like wireless cameras or audio bugs would need power and he'd have to have a method of retrieving the data. I'd be more inclined to think he had passwords to her email account or a trojan on her computer allowing him access to her pc/web cam/microphones etc (especially if it's a laptop with built in web cam / mic).
posted by syntheticfaith at 7:47 AM on March 4, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses all :)

Her computer/wifi/phone was the first things i checked out. Im 100% sure these are safe, since i went over them myself and i like to believe im quite tech savvy :) To be on the safe side i also formatted her pc's and set up the wifi-network with WPA2 encryption. Also the cellphone was recently replaced. Most passwords have also been changed, except 1 mail which im trying to use as a bait :)

As for the police idea, they don't seem to take it very seriously and we were hoping that if we could find and turn in the bugs (if there are any), that they would serve as real proof and evidence we could turn over to the police. The previous GPS-tracker in the car turned out to be quite muddled, since it was their shared car and he could claim that he was using it for his work (logging distances). Although combined with any new claims it could turn out to be useful.
posted by kampken at 8:02 AM on March 4, 2009

The police have previously seized tracking devices from this guy and they're not taking this seriously? Consider calling the superiors of the officers you're dealing with.

Otherwise, contact a private investigation/security firm and get an estimate for a bug sweep. (Do this from a safe location/telephone.)
posted by hayvac at 8:15 AM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you do find any bugs/cameras, don't collect them to "turn over" to the police - leave them in place for the police to witness first.

On the PC side, also be on the lookout for hardware keyloggers that fit between the keyboard/computer, into USB ports, etc.
posted by mikepop at 9:05 AM on March 4, 2009

On the PC side, also be on the lookout for hardware keyloggers that fit between the keyboard/computer, into USB ports, etc.

And possibly buy a new keyboard, because I've seen companies that can install keyloggers on the inside of the keyboard based on the exact template of other OEM keyboards.
posted by deezil at 5:42 PM on March 4, 2009

Best answer: It boils down to how is he getting the signal?

If he has physical access to the house (I'm assuming not), then he doesn't need the device to transmit - a cheap mp3 recorder will do the job, and a scanner won't detect it's non-existent transmissions. Change the locks and install security cameras, etc etc.

If he doesn't have access to the house, then the signal needs to get out somehow. Phone, internet, or radio transmission, most likely.

If it's radio or wireless, then the transmitter is most likely going to be short-range, meaning he or a device of his is receiving the transmission very close by - probably within 50m. Given these constraints, how/where would he obtain his link?

If it is a long-range transmitter, or a camera, then it's going to need a lot of power. If he can't gain access to the house to change batteries every day, it's most likely connected to her mains.
In rooms which potentially contained the information he displayed, you can check inside the the wall sockets, light switches, light sockets, etc for something spliced onto the wires. (Consider turning off the section of the house at the breaker when looking behind the fixtures - it's not necessary, but if you're not used with bare mains wires, it's prudent)

Alternative, just look for signs of tampering - you would expect that the screws of light switches, etc. would look like they haven't been touched in decades, there would be dust around the edges, and it would not be disturbed, etc etc.

Appliances are another source of power that could be harbouring something, but (with the exception of computers or phones), the lights/sockets/switches are much more likely.

If you live in a city, there is likely to be a brick and mortar "spy store" somewhere within shopping/driving distance. Drop by and take a look at what sort of things are on the market (what options he has) and see if they have any advice for you.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:46 PM on March 4, 2009

Best answer: Also, put a lot of careful consideration into the low tech. He may be living in a car down the street. There might be a mutual friend he meets for lunch, possibly unaware he's estranged. She might be more talkative than she realises and the eerie things are known by more people, or more easily learned than she thinks. If he doesn't have access to her online accounts, or voicemail, etc, he might have access to those of a confidante. And so on.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:58 PM on March 4, 2009

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