Law Tips: Protecting Clients in This Digital Age – Unconventional Audio Eavesdropping Technologies

Welcome Law Tips readers. Would you recognize the signs of spyware on your cell phone, or fax or copy machine? You might remember the blog a few weeks ago wherein Tim Wilcox of International Investigators, Inc., discussed illegal surveillance techniques used currently on cell phones and how to protect your clients. In fact, he enlightened us on issues in electronic surveillance that could impact any one of us at any time. I’ll provide a link to that blog later, in case you need a review. But there’s more! Tim has additional pointers for you on what to be aware of in unconventional audio eavesdropping technologies. Here’s his expert guidance:

Unconventional Covert Espionage Techniques

The following techniques can be found and ordered (purchased) over the Internet from foreign spy device suppliers, shipped to the US and rarely intercepted by US Customs.

A device that can be cleverly concealed in a fax machine, which will copy all faxed documents along with the phone numbers and at a later time, upon a command from the bad guy, download all of the copies. This device can also be commanded, by the bad guy, to turn on an amplified microphone to monitor the conversations around the fax machine. There are many configurations that are available.

A similar device to the fax bug can be installed in a printer or copy machine. Most of the newer copy machines utilize a hard drive that maintains a copy of every document copied (scanned). These are easily accessed by service techs or “others” that have physical access to the office area.

Most offices utilize shredders; some have a large collection box which is periodically picked up by a trusted shredding company. Others utilize the small standalone units.  There is an overseas company that provides a bugged shredder that has a hidden digital scanner built into the injected molded plastic document insertion top.

There are 3 models:

  • One has a hidden micro SD card that will hold 30k to 40k of documents.
  • One has an electrical “digital carrier current” transmitter that transmits the documents over the electrical power lines to a matched receiver somewhere else in the building. That receiver has a printer connected so that while the document is being shredded in one office, it is being printed out in another office.
  • The third model incorporates a RF transmitter/receiver which is connected to a document storage device. This allows the bad guy to pull his vehicle into the office parking lot and transmit a RF signal to the shredder (similar to a garage door opener) which causes the unit to “burst transmit” all of the stored documents to the bad guy’s receiver.

Several overseas companies offer cellular bugs, which are an entire cell phone packaged in a tiny circuit, cleverly hidden in innocent appearing appliances, i.e.: computer mouse, computer keyboard, power strip surge suppressor, table clock, wall clock, wall thermostat, clock radio, electric pencil sharpener, and many more devices that have an ongoing electrical power source. They even have them designed for monitoring you in your car with a bugged radar detector and car DC to AC power inverter.

For those offices or homes that utilize Comcast, Brighthouse, AT&T U-verse, etc. BEWARE… If they provide broadband for your computers and VoIP for your phone service, you can be monitored by the bad guys. All cable subscribers have an IP address. This is so that the cable company can perform remote diagnostics, firmware and software modifications and upgrades. There are a number of software programs available that will allow the bad guys to invade your IP address (by “spoofing” the carrier for the address) and monitor your VoIP phone calls, turn on the microphones in your computers and listen to the conversations around your computers. They can also view everything on your computer hard drive. Your most secure source for TV is through the satellite or dish networks. VoIP is inherently vulnerable regardless of the provider.  Skype is also vulnerable.

NOTE: All of the above eavesdropping and data interception techniques are criminal offenses covered under Public Law 90-351, Title III, Chapter 18, USC2510-2520 and most state laws


  • Be cognizant of all of the above malevolent technologies.
  • Employ as many countermeasures as possible.
  • During sensitive meetings remove all cell phones or purchase cell signal detectors and jammers.
  • Purchase and install acoustic noise generators (white/pink noise transducers) in offices/conference rooms where sensitive meetings take place, and hidden motion activated video cameras which will record and document unauthorized intruders.
  • Periodically employ a high level technical surveillance countermeasures (TSCM) team to conduct “sweeps” in the sensitive areas. Some larger firms utilize “Safe rooms” that provide a high level of voice privacy.

We appreciate Tim Wilcox’s update on another arena of technological challenges for lawyers.  

To read the earlier Law Tips blog on Electronic Spying and Your Cell Phone, Click here.


About our Law Tips faculty participants:
Tim Wilcox, International Investigators, Inc, CEO, Indianapolis, is a skilled and well-known Indiana investigator.  He specializes in security consultation, internal theft investigations, protection of proprietary information and communications, computer and cellular forensics, and litigation support.  He has been instrumental in reducing corporate shrinkage and eliminating vulnerabilities for companies worldwide. Mr. Wilcox is a member of the World Association of Detectives, the National Assn. Of Legal Investigators, the Society for Competitive Intelligence Professionals, the American Society for Industrial Security and the Indiana Association of Professional Investigators.

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We are utilizing her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook and Twitter pages, and other places her legal experience lends itself.

Thank you for reading Law Tips. You may subscribe to this weekly blog through the RSS link at the top of this page.  Also, you are encouraged to comment below or email Nancy. She welcomes your input as she continues to sift through the treasure trove of knowledge of our CLE faculty to share with you.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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