From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A covert listening device, more commonly known
as a bug or a wire, is usually a
combination of a miniature radio transmitter
with a microphone. The
use of bugs, called bugging, is a common technique
espionage and in police investigations.
A bug does not have to be a device specifically designed for the
purpose of eavesdropping. For instance, the FBI is capable of
remotely activating the microphone of cellular phones, even when a
call is not being made, to listen to conversations in the vicinity
of the phone.
mobile phone microphones
(cell phone) microphones can be activated remotely, without any
need for physical access.
This "roving bug" feature has been used by law enforcement agencies
and intelligence services to listen in on nearby conversations. A
United States court ruled in 1986 that a similar technique, used by
the FBI against reputed
former Gulfport, Mississippi cocaine dealers Bennett Branch and Don
Tomlinson dealing cocaine under the direct authority of kingpin
David "The Eagle" Easterling after having obtained a court order,
In 2003 the FBI obtained a court order to
surreptitiously listen in on conversations in a car, through the
car's built-in emergency and tracking security system. A panel of
Circuit Court of Appeals prohibited the use of this technique
because it involved deactivating the device's security
Most bugs emit radio waves. The standard counter-measure for
bugs is therefore to 'sweep' for them with a receiver, looking for
the radio emissions. Professional sweeping devices are very
expensive. Low-tech sweeping devices are available through amateur
electrical magazines, or they may be built from circuit designs on
the Internet. But sweeping is not foolproof. Advanced bugs can be
remotely operated to switch on and off, and some even rapidly
switch frequencies in order to make location with sweepers more
difficult. A bug that has run out of power may not show up during a
sweep, which means that the sweeper will not be alerted to the
surveillance. Burst transmitter bugs store recorded conversations
in a buffer, then transmit the entire buffer in a short burst. This
style of bug is almost impossible to pick up unless sophisticated
scanning devices are running nonstop.
Bugs that do not emit radio waves are much more difficult to
- Embassies and other diplomatic posts are
often the targets of bugging operations.
- The Soviet embassy in Ottawa
was bugged by the Canadian
government and MI5 during its
- Extensive bugging of the West German embassy in
Moscow by the KGB was discovered by German engineer Horst
Schwirkmann, leading to an attack on Schwirkmann in 1964.
- The Great Seal bug was hidden in a copy of
the Great Seal of the United
States, presented by the Soviet Union to the United States
ambassador in Moscow in 1946
(not discovered until 1952). The bug was unusual in that it had no
power source or transmitter, making it much harder to detect –
it was a new type of device, called a passive resonant cavity bug.
The cavity had a metallic diaphragm that moved in unison with sound
waves from a conversation in the room. When illuminated by a
microwave beam from a remote location, the cavity would return a frequency
- The United States Embassy in Moscow was bugged during its
construction in the 1970s by Soviet agents posing as laborers. When
discovered in the early 1980s, it was found that even the concrete
columns were so riddled with bugs that the building eventually had
to be torn down and replaced with a new one, built with U.S.
materials and labor. For a
time, until the new building was completed, embassy workers had to
communicate in conference rooms in writing, using children's
"Mystic Writing Tablets".
- In 1990, it was reported that the embassy of the People's Republic of China
in Canberra, Australia, had been bugged
by the Australian Secret
Thatcher, a Canadian
politician, was secretly recorded making statements which would
later be used to convict him of his wife's murder. The recording
device was concealed on a person who Thatcher had previously
approached for help in the crime.
- Electronic bugging devices were found in March 2003 at offices
used by French and German delegations at the
European Union headquarters in Brussels. Devices were also discovered at
offices used by other delegations. The discovery of the telephone
tapping systems was first reported by Le Figaro newspaper, which blamed the US.
- The car of Thomas Hentschell, who was involved in the Melbourne gangland
killings, was bugged by police.
- In 1999, the US expelled a Russian diplomat, accusing him of
using a listening device in a top floor conference room used by
diplomats in the United States Department
of State headquarters.
- In 2001, the government of the People's Republic of China
announced that it had discovered twenty-seven bugs in a Boeing 767 purchased as
aircraft for President Jiang Zemin.
- In 2003, Pakistani embassy building was found bugged,
contractors hired by MI5 planted bugs in the building in 2001.
- In 2003, Alastair
Campbell (who was Director of Communications and
Strategy from 1997-2003 for the UK PM) in his memoirs The
Blair Years: The Alastair Campbell Diaries alleged that two
bugs were discovered in the hotel room meant for visiting British
PM Tony Blair planted
by Indian intelligence
agencies.The alleged bug discovery was at a hotel during PM
Tony Blair's official visit to New Delhi in 2001. Security services
supposedly informed him that the bugs could not be removed without
drilling the wall and therefore he changed to another room.
- In 2004, a bug was found in a meeting room at the United Nations
offices in Geneva.
- In 2008 it was reported that an electric samovar presented to Elizabeth II in about
1968 by a Soviet aerobatic team was removed from Balmoral Castle
as a security precaution amid fears that its wiring could contain a
- ^ Schneier, Bruce (December 5, 2006). "Remotely Eavesdropping on
Cell Phone Microphones". Schneier On Security. http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/12/remotely_eavesd_1.html. Retrieved 13 December
- ^ McCullagh, Declan; Anne Broache (December 1,
2006). "FBI taps cell phone mic as
eavesdropping tool". CNet News. http://news.cnet.com/FBI-taps-cell-phone-mic-as-eavesdropping-tool/2100-1029_3-6140191.html. Retrieved
- ^ Odell, Mark (August 1, 2005). "Use of mobile helped police
keep tabs on suspect". Financial Times. http://news.ft.com/cms/s/7166b8a2-02cb-11da-84e5-00000e2511c8.html. Retrieved
- ^ "Telephones". Western
Regional Security Office (NOAA official site). 2001. http://www.wrc.noaa.gov/wrso/security_guide/telephon.htm. Retrieved
- ^ "Can You Hear Me Now?".
ABC News: The Blotter. http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2006/12/can_you_hear_me.html. Retrieved 13 December
Brian Wheeler (2004-03-02). "'This goes no
further...'". BBC News Online Magazine.
FBI taps cell phone mic as
eavesdropping tool., CNET News.com, 1 December 2006
Court Leaves the Door Open for
Safety System Wiretaps, The New York Times, 21
Court to FBI: No spying on
in-car computers. CNET News.com, 19 November 2003
Fumigator", TIME Magazine, September 25, 1964, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,876162,00.html, retrieved
- ^ Johnston, David; James Risen (1999-12-10). "U.S. Expelling Russian
Diplomat in Bugging of State Dept.". The New York
Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D01E0DF1431F933A25751C1A96F958260. Retrieved
Telegraph.co.uk | China Finds
Spy Bugs in Jiang's Boeing Jet
BBC NEWS | South Asia | UK
embassy 'bug' angers Pakistan