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Bugs (Microphones) and Bug Detectors

Bugs (Microphones) and Bug Detectors

BRIAN HOYLE

A key part of intelligence gathering and surveillance is the installation of listening devices. The classic Cold War image of Soviet espionage agents secretly planting "bugs" in an office of the United States embassy is an accurate historical picture of the use of these listening devices. Police forces and private investigators also use bugging devices (with legal approval).

The use of listening devices is often a race to acquire information before the devices are discovered and removed. For example, rooms where top-secret intelligence activity occurs are frequently examined, or "swept", for bugs.

A typical electronic bug consists of a microphone and a radio transmitter. The microphone receives sound waves and either vibrates a thin membrane called a diaphragm (a dynamic microphone) or a thin metal ribbon suspended in a magnetic field (a ribbon microphone). Vibration of the diaphragm produces an electrical signal. Vibration of the metal ribbon produces a voltage change, which can be converted to an electrical signal.

The electric signals are then beamed out of the transmitter portion of the bug to a receiver. The conversation

transmitted by the bug to the receiver can be recorded or listened to directly. Other types of bugs exist. For example, radio frequencies passing through the electrical wiring of a building can be intercepted. Bugs can also intercept the electrical transmissions from portable phones, wireless computers linked to a network, and even from a computer monitor.

The designation of secret listening devices as bugs is entirely suitable, given their small size. Modern bugs can be concealed in pens, calculators, and even buttons (although the latter need to be replaced frequently, as their power supply is so small).

The miniaturization of electronics has made it possible to pack more devices into the small package. For example, video equipment can be contained in a bug, enabling sight as well as sound surveillance.

Up to the 1980s, bugs operated using very high frequency, or VHF, radio waves. However, the development of mobile communications technology, particularly digital telephones, paved the way for the development of bugs that operate using ultrahigh frequency wavelength or microwaves. This has made the detection of bugs more difficult than simply detecting the output of radio waves. Some modern bugging devices can also disguise the output signal or vary the frequency of the signal, which can thwart detection.

Some bugs contain voice-activated recorders that are capable of storing up to 12 hours of conversation. The information can then be rapidly sent to a receiver in a "burst" transmission. Because detection of the bug is geared toward the frequencies emitted during transmission, the detection of these bugs is difficult. Counter systems are designed to try and activate the bug and then detect it. The transmission range of bugs has improved from mere yards to miles. Some bugs can even transmit to satellites, making monitoring from thousands of miles away feasible.

Another surveillance option is the use of a microphone. Conventional microphones operate electronically; the electrical signals representing the converted sound waves are passed through a wire to a receiving device located elsewhere. Microphones that operate using magnetic fields also exist.

Shotgun microphones equipped with a parabolic reflector can record conversation outside at a distance. Electronic filters screen out extraneous background noise in order to enhance the sensitivity of the microphone.

Laser microphones bounce a laser beam off of an object that is near the conversation. The object must be something that resonates, or is able to move as pressure waves created by noise in the room encounter it. As the object vibrates back and forth due to the sound waves from the conversation in the room, the distance traveled by the laser beam will become slightly shorter and longer. These length differences can be measured over time, and the pattern of the vibrations translated into the text of the conversation.

Microphones are extremely hard to detect, especially when used in a room where other electrical appliances (i.e., computers, telephones) are operating.

Bugs are detected by virtue of the frequencies they emit. Essentially a bug detector is a receiver. When brought near an operating bug, the detector will collect and amplify the bug's transmission. Bug detectors are now portable enough to be carried in a "sweep" of a room.

Bugs and microphones have moved from the arena of political espionage to the boardrooms of corporate offices and police surveillance operations. Recognizing the prevalence of electronic eavesdropping devices and their threat to privacy, the United States Congress passed the Electronic Communication Privacy Act in 1986, which made bugging illegal. Nonetheless, the use of eavesdropping devices and detectors is widespread in the intelligence and business communities. One estimate places the annual sales of such devices in the United States alone at $888 million.

FURTHER READING:

BOOKS:

Shannon, Michel L. Bug Book: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Electronic EavesdroppingBut Were Afraid To Ask. Boulder, CO: Paladin Press, 2000.

Shannon, Michel L. Don't Bug Me: The Latest High-Tech Spy Methods. Boulder, CO: Paladin Press, 2002.

SEE ALSO

Codes and Ciphers
Computer Hackers
Internet Surveillance

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"Bugs (Microphones) and Bug Detectors." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bugs (Microphones) and Bug Detectors." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bugs-microphones-and-bug-detectors

"Bugs (Microphones) and Bug Detectors." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bugs-microphones-and-bug-detectors

Bugs (Microphones) and Bug Detectors

Bugs (Microphones) and Bug Detectors

A forensic investigation typically involves the examination of items at the scene of the crime or accident. Fabric, bloodstains, and food are examples. In addition, an investigator will make use of recording devices that were in place prior to the incident. One example is a security camera. Another example involves the various forms of technology that allow voice conversations to be recorded. Microphones (bugs) can be installed in a room or even within a telephone.

Hand-in-hand with the development of bugs came technologies designed to detect the devices (bug detectors). Bug detectors are a very useful forensic tool, enabling a crime or accident scene to be scanned for the presence of recording bugs.

A typical electronic bug consists of a microphone and a radio transmitter. The microphone receives sound waves and either vibrates a thin membrane called a diaphragm (a dynamic microphone) or a thin metal ribbon suspended in a magnetic field (a ribbon microphone). Vibration of the diaphragm produces an electrical signal. Vibration of the metal ribbon produces a voltage change, which can be converted to an electrical signal.

The electric signals are then beamed out of the transmitter portion of the bug to a receiver. The conversation transmitted by the bug to the receiver can be recorded or listened to directly. Other types of bugs exist. For example, radio frequencies passing through the electrical wiring of a building can be intercepted. Bugs can also intercept the electrical transmissions from portable phones, wireless computers linked to a network, and even from a computer monitor.

The designation of secret listening devices as bugs is entirely suitable, given their small size. Modern bugs can be concealed in pens, calculators, and even buttons (although the latter need to be replaced frequently, as their power supply is so small).

The miniaturization of electronics has made it possible to pack more devices into the small package. For example, video equipment can be contained in a bug, enabling sight as well as sound surveillance.

Up to the 1980s, bugs operated using very high frequency, or VHF, radio waves. However, the development of mobile communications technology, particularly digital telephones, paved the way for the development of bugs that operate using ultrahigh frequency wavelength or microwaves. This has made the detection of bugs more difficult than simply detecting the output of radio waves. Some modern bugging devices can also disguise the output signal or vary the frequency of the signal, which can thwart detection.

Some bugs contain voice-activated recorders that are capable of storing up to 12 hours of conversation. The information can then be rapidly sent to a receiver in a "burst" transmission. Because detection of the bug is geared toward the frequencies emitted during transmission, the detection of these bugs is difficult. Counter systems are designed to try and activate the bug and then detect it. The transmission range of bugs has improved from mere yards to miles. Some bugs can even transmit to satellites, making monitoring from thousands of miles away feasible.

Another surveillance option is the use of a microphone. Conventional microphones operate electronically; the electrical signals representing the converted sound waves are passed through a wire to a receiving device located elsewhere. Microphones that operate using magnetic fields also exist.

Shotgun microphones equipped with a parabolic reflector can record conversation outside at a distance. Electronic filters screen out extraneous background noise in order to enhance the sensitivity of the microphone.

Laser microphones bounce a laser beam off of an object that is near the conversation. The object must be something that resonates, or is able to move as pressure waves created by noise in the room encounter it. As the object vibrates back and forth due to the sound waves from the conversation in the room, the distance traveled by the laser beam will become slightly shorter and longer. These length differences can be measured over time, and the pattern of the vibrations translated into the text of the conversation.

Microphones are extremely hard to detect, especially when used in a room where other electrical appliances (i.e., computers, telephones) are operating.

Bugs are detected by virtue of the frequencies they emit. Essentially, a bug detector is a receiver. When brought near an operating bug, the detector will collect and amplify the bug's transmission. Bug detectors are now portable enough to be carried in a "sweep" of a room.

Bugs and microphones have moved from the arena of political espionage to the boardrooms of corporate offices and police surveillance operations. Recognizing the prevalence of electronic eavesdropping devices and their threat to privacy, the United States Congress passed the Electronic Communication Privacy Act in 1986, which made bugging illegal. Nonetheless, the use of eavesdropping devices and detectors is widespread in the intelligence and business communities. One estimate places the annual sales of such devices in the United States alone at $888 million.

see also Crime scene investigation; Evidence; Telephone recording system; Telephone tap detector.

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Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

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"Bugs (Microphones) and Bug Detectors." World of Forensic Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bugs (Microphones) and Bug Detectors." World of Forensic Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bugs-microphones-and-bug-detectors

"Bugs (Microphones) and Bug Detectors." World of Forensic Science. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bugs-microphones-and-bug-detectors