Member Discussion

Sweep For Hidden Cameras And Listening Devices?

I've been asked about possibly doing a sweep for a potential client... I've never been approached before regarding this sort of thing. Any ideas? Sorry, I know it doesn't fit the IPVM theme, but you guys are the only ones I trust lol.

This is one of those scenarios where a positive hit (a found device) certainly indicates a true listening device, but a negative hit (no results) simply means you didn't *find* anything, not that no devices are present.

This used to be a little easier, back in the heyday of some of the first covert electronic surveillance devices in the non-government market. If you want a fun read, look for "How To Get Anything on Anybody" by Lee Lapin. I think it was first published in the early 80's, my copy is from '89 or so. The technology has changed, but some of the basic concepts haven't.

Unenctrypted and unsecured covert devices can be easy-ish to find. Unless they were made and placed by a true professional, they're going to operate on common bands (900Mhz, 2.4Ghz, etc.). Setup a radio in the room playing loudly, then go outside the room with a police scanner and scan through all frequencies to see if you hear the radio broadcast. That won't find every RF audio "bug", but it would find the simple ones (well, it won't find them, it will tell you one is there, then you get to hunt for it). Make sure any common electrical devices (lamps, etc.) are powered on when you do this, in case there is a transmitter hidden in something like that.

Cameras are a little trickier. If they're wifi, you'd have to run a wifi snooper and look for any non-recognized networks. For recognized networks, you'd want to log into the router and look at the dhcp table and internet activity table, see if there are devices/IP's you can't recognize. Unsecured RF cameras can be found by buying a few common tunable camera transmitter/receiver devices (something like this ) and seeing if you pick up any signals.

An RF spectrum analyzer is also handy just to see what is broadcasting the strongest signals in the area. A directional antenna should help you locate sources.

This is very much a hide-n-seek game, and how deep you dig into it depends somewhat on judging the threat of the eavesdropping. More sophisticated cameras can easily have an SD card and store lots of video/audio. Instead of listening live, the listener might come by once a day to remotely pull data wirelessly, or even set the device to upload data at 2AM to a remote server somewhere. You'll want to be looking at outbound Internet traffic 24/7 for a few days (maybe run ntop or something similar) and so forth.

Have fun :)

Great advice, thanks... I remember a similar training years ago with a federal agency in DC. They had us walking around with a laptop scanning for rogue devices. I don't quite remember the name of the program we used. It's been a while and the old noggin has lots of cobwebs... but I think that is a similar concept to what you are mentioning here.

Again, thanks for the advice!

Now I'm convinced Brian Karas is really 'Deepthroat'.

lol Brian, I was on the phone with a client when I saw your posting and I burst out laughing. I had to quickly explain to the client the reason for my outburst!

Note to self: Do not read IPVM postings while on the phone with customers.

Carl mentioned the following in an old discussion on the same topic in our previous LinkedIn group:

"I don't know if this product works, but...
BrickHouse Hidden Camera Detectors

"The Camera Finder Hidden Camera Detector/Locator is the most reliable, user-friendly technology on the market, allowing you to make sure that you are not being watched. It uses optical augmentation; a phenomenon whereby light reflected from a focused optical system, such as a Video Camera, is reflected along the same path as the incident light. If a Hidden Camera is illuminated and viewed with the Camera Finder, then a strong reflection from the target camera will reveal its position to the user.

The Camera Finder takes advantage of this phenomenon by using a ring of ultra-bright LEDs arranged around a viewing port. When a user scans a room looking through the viewing port, a Hidden Camera appearing in the field of view will brightly reflect the light from the LEDs.

To scan an area, simply look through the viewing port and depress the button to activate the LEDs. Slowly scan areas where Hidden Cameras are suspected and look for bright-reflected spots. Remember, most Hidden Video Cameras use Pinhole Camera Lenses, so the spot you are looking for could be small.

If you see a suspected camera, move your vantage point slightly. If the location of the reflection moves as you move, then this is not a camera. If the location of the reflection does not move, then it is highly likely that you have discovered the optics of a Hidden Camera."

These stupid looking things actually work, believe it or not. You have to be relatively close to the camera- about 15 feet or so- and you have to be extremely patient, but you will find the lens sooner or later if you take it slow.

Ari, good to know.

Here's a video, though their marketing claims seem to be a little bit more optimistic than your experience:

Here's a $4.99 iPhone app that claims to detect hidden cameras:

In their FAQ, the company says that they:

"Use your phone's camera flash to create a reflection from the lens of any camera. In order for the camera to record your activities it must have an exposed lens and so the HCD app can find it.

The HCD apps patent pending video content analysis algorithm then goes into effect, comparing reflections shown on your video screen to known hidden camera identifiers."

I wonder the performance of this compared to a dedicated unit that uses a ring of LEDs. That said, obviously the app is far less expensive and can be used with existing iOS devices.

P.S. - They also have a hardware / appliance for detecting hidden cameras ($54). See this video:

Thanks everyone for your help! I have been researching the information you've provided, and of course, I'll be checking with my LE friends for more information. I know how to conduct a "swee" of an area but want to make sure I don't miss anything. I think a device would help cover that. I'd appreciate any comments from anyone that has used these or similar devices. I would like to "authenticate" the claims if possible. Thanks again.

I tested the Hidden Camera Detect app and it performed poorly, missing real covert cameras and falsely identifying random objects as covert cameras.

I had it scan an actual covert cam rig head on, with no alerts.

I then tested it against 2 scenes with no covert cams. The panoramics on the tripod did not trigger because the app clearly states that it will not detect traditional security cameras.

The app also states that it will not detect laptop cameras, but it did alert in random areas of the scene in the image below:

I recommend staying away from it, and if you are really worried about hidden cameras, put the 5 dollars from this app towards the HCD hardware.

So the alerts it gave were false, while plainly apparent cameras were not identified?

Yes Brian, obvious cameras are not identified, but the app says that "traditional security cameras will not be detected" upon start up. The false alerts were also sporadic, such as showing every key on my keyboard as a potential hidden camera.

Very interesting! Thank you IPVM for taking the time, effort and manpower into this. I'll purchase the hardware and see how what happens. Again, thanks!

I have experience in deploying stand alone covert camera units in wooded areas.

The easiest way is to use a high power LED flashlight focus the beam to smallest possible and slowly scan areas. Things in nature don't reflect white light back!

The number one enemy of hidden cameras in outdoor settings in a covert role with darkness all round is the above.

I have lost a number of brand name cameras to theft, surveillance aware subjects. That was until I modified them, it reduced their night time effectiveness but got some good daytime photographs.

I have also bespoked Hikvision covert cameras into the outdoors area (way out in the woods). Same applies to detection.

"Things in nature don't reflect white light back!"

None of those where I am from.....

I know people who do this for a living and there is more to it without going into detail.

One of the best statements made is about not finding something only means you didn't find anything.

Keep that in mind if you are contracted.

Having attended a conference geared to counterintelligence and the sort of thing you are asking about (including a "Bug Off competition" my advice would be to contract a company on behalf of the customer that specialises in the sort of "Sweep" activity you are looking to do. Do not try to specialise or represent a skill that you do not have in this area. The proper equipment and radio spectrum anaylisers would need to do a proper sweep depending on the threat level cost a lost more than most of us would make in a year. There are companies that have made enormous investments in training and equipment in the proper tools to do a "Sweep" job properly.. thinking that you can go to the local "spy"shop and by a tool to find cameras is not doing any kind of service to your customer. Of course there are the severely paranoid car lady types that think people keep coming into their house and moving things... the best advice there is to inform imediate family members that you have been contacted a security professional to look for unusual activity and need to make the imediate family aware!

All the best to you on this job.


Eternal Security.

Sorry only noticed the date on the previous 3 posts... didnt mean to revive a 3 year old thread ;)

Nothing wrong with updated information as long as it is still relevant. And I don't believe in starting new threads just because the original one was "old". Why start a new thread and separate the information out, especially if it is relevant to the original topic.