‘Spyshop toys’ enable hidden audio and video recordings

July 16th, 2009

bond_gadgetsSpyshop toys. That’s what J.D. LeaSure, a Virginia Beach-based counter surveillance specialist, calls the trove of eavesdropping and peeping-Tom digital gadgetry readily for sale online.

LeaSure is the go-to guy CEOs call in to do security sweeps when they suspect someone is listening in and/or viewing strategic discussions that are meant to be kept behind closed doors. He says business has been booming in the past year and half.

Some of the devices available for purchase, simply by Googling “spy bug,” would impress Q, 007′s gadgets guy.

greenorb_dvr_edited-3Take this $250 luminescent jawbreaker. It is really a motion-activated video camera and digital video recorder capable of capturing 33 hours of activity. A janitor could perch this somewhere inconspicuous on a Monday and retrieve it on a Friday.

Listening bugs in cables and matchboxes

Or for $300 you can acquire a 6-foot  USB cable, about as mundane-looking as it gets. You plug one end into a printer or some other peripheral device and the other end  into the computer’s USB port. No one would notice anything strange. The cable works for the intended purpose. But it also houses a sensitive microphone and antennae that continually transmits a UHF audio signal to receiver that can be up to 160 feet away.

LeaSure filed this report on the USB cable bug. “You can hear every whisper within the confines of the room,” he says.

Then there are dime-sized “contact bugs,” which anyone, say a groundskeeper, could stick to the outside of a conference room window, and micro video cameras that can stream video and audio over a microwave frequency to a small receiver100 feet away.

sim-bug3And check out this $300  “SIM recorder.” This matchbox-sized device comes with a Subscriber Identity Module, or SIM chip. It is essentially a supersensitive, listen-only cell phone with no ringer, no dial pad and no view screen. It is designed to be placed under a desk ledge or coffee table. There it will lurk waiting for you to call the phone number assigned to it. You can do this at anytime, from anywhere, from any phone. The device will “answer” by activating a series of three tiny microphones that enable you to hear on your handset everything going on in the room.

Criminal profile in flux

jd-leasure_cropLeaSure says requests from corporate clients wanting him to do security sweeps of executive suites, conference rooms and other workplace venues are up 40 percent from a year ago.

“We go in and find these very items — spyshop toys that are readily available and fairly cheap,” he says. “Just in the last four years, the criminal  profile has changed dramatically; now 75 percent or better of  corporate  espionage cases are  coming from internal sources, either an employee or an ex-employee or a family member or a business acquaintance. There are more and more things out there to surreptitously monitor somebody’s activity using audio or video.”

–Byron Acohido