Telephone Line Bugging Tech
think my phone is tapped. What do I do?"
get that question a lot! Most people are looking for a device
they can just put on their phone line to tell them whether it's bugged, or
The bottom line is
that there's no simple device you can put on your line to tell you it's
been bugged. If you think your phone line is bugged, don't say anything on
it or in your house that you don't want overheard.
safest way to make a call that's probably not bugged is outside in the
open, on a brand new digital cell phone
with a new number, that you just bought (like a prepaid
cell phone). If you make the
call in your car there's a possibility that someone has put a microphone
in the car attached to an RF transmitter so they could hear at least your
side of the conversation.
people don't believe me that there's no magic gizmo to detect a bug since they've seen devices advertised at spy
shops or in the back of Popular Science magazine. Don't believe everything
you read, but I'm not lying.
you're interested, I'll tell you exactly why you have no hope
of being sure you're not bugged...
can be bugged in a few ways:
- Putting a tap on your phone
- Putting microphones in your
office, home or car to pick up audio.
- Putting a key logger or
program on one or more PCs that sends everything you do on your
computer out to another site on the Internet.
The person listening to the
bug can be connected in a few ways:
- A hardwired connection to
the telephone wiring in the building. A telephone line always has
power, so it could work forever.
- An RF transmitter that
broadcasts over the radio from your office, home or car. A modified
cell phone is a wonderful RF transmitter that works almost
everywhere and is easily wired to the car's battery so it will run
forever. You'll never know it, but your car mechanic might spot it.
- Also... In a
car, your exact GPS location can be broadcast, so they know exactly
where your car is (even cheap cell phones contain a GPS).
- They can be connected to the
Internet through your always-on broadband connection which could be
digitizing telephone calls, room audio and computer keystrokes and
screens, sending them to another site on the Internet.
To detect a hardwired connection
to the phone line, you need a Time Domain Reflectometer (TDR) which gives
you a graphic display of all of the connections on a phone line going
towards the Phone Company's Central Office. The TDR will tell you on a
screen how many feet it is to each blip, then it's your job to walk out
that many feet (including up and down walls) to find what's making the
blip. It might be a bug, but more likely it's just a phone, spare jack,
answering machine or a splice.
Once you've found the source of that blip,
you go on to the next blip, and so on. You can do that for miles outside
the building, going towards the phone company. There will be splices on
poles and in the green pedestals on the street. Any of
those blips can be a bug. The only way to know is to walk it out and
physically look at it. Pretty time consuming, and it could require a
ladder or bucket truck, as well as a wrench to get into the green
phone man can do some of that by just looking at the wiring and equipment
on the line. If it was an amateur trying to bug the line it's likely that
the phone man would spot something that just doesn't belong there. If it
was a professional bugging the line, the bug would probably be hidden
inside something that would normally be attached to a phone line and even
I wouldn't recognize it.
Without the TDR, a phone man is just guessing. If you're that concerned
about being bugged, you really don't want a false sense of security.
there is a bug on your phone line, they could be listening to your phone
calls, but they could also have microphones hooked up (or they could
modify a telephone) to listen to anything in the room(s) - not just phone
calls. The bug can be monitored anywhere the phone line can be extended.
The guy listening can be on a pole, in an alley,
in a car or van parked next to a pole or pedestal with a
wire running into the vehicle, or the line can be extended (spliced like an
extension) on a pole or in a pedestal so that it goes to another house or
office in the neighborhood using the telephone company's spare wires. The
people listening can be in a perfectly nice comfortable place sitting on a couch eating pizza
and watching cable TV while they record everything you do, and you'll never know it.
bug on a phone line might also transmit using RF (radio), and can also be transmitting
the audio in the room(s). If that's the case, the person listening can be
anywhere within range of the radio. Since bugs can be made out of cheap
cell phones (powered right from the regular 110AC wiring in the building),
it's possible that they could be listening in another country - again
sitting on a couch drinking Vodka and speaking to their cronies in
Russian. You'll never know it.
solution? Don't say anything you don't want overheard!
Your cell phone is not safe from bugging!
If your cell phone could have been
accessed by anyone when you weren't using it (like when
you were in the shower?), or by a sales person or technician in a cell
phone shop, the phone could have been modified to:
- Send all of your cell phone
conversations to whoever is bugging you.
- Send all of the conversations that
are heard in the area of the phone heard (picked up by the
microphone on the cell phone)
- Send an SMS message (text message) to the person
bugging the phone every time your phone makes or receives a call, or
you send a text message.
- Send the GPS coordinates of your
phone to the person bugging the phone.
The government (FBI, CIA, Police, etc.)
can and does do this legally. It's not hard, and there's no way to stop
them other than not to say anything that can be used against you. Recent
news stories have pointed out that the FBI ignores the law themselves
and just asks phone companies for phone records - with no supporting
documents or a warrant.
Every computer or telephone
you have is already directly connected to the US government.
If you're in another country the US government has helped
almost every other country setup the same systems which gave
them direct access to all the phone calls and Internet
traffic in those countries. There aren't enough humans on
earth to watch and listen to all that traffic so computers
monitor it all and decide what a human should look at or
listen to. And some or all of this traffic is archived for
some time, or forever?
In the old days (20 years ago?), bugging
was much more difficult than today. The amazing modern technologies
we're all using make it incredibly easy to bug anybody. Because it's so
easy, the police seem to have forgotten the laws that protect all of us,
including them, from illegal bugging. When it's this easy and the tools
to do it are so easily bought cheaply on the Internet, it's easy for
anybody to lose sight of laws that are in place to protect us.
Software to bug a cell phone is cheap
and easy to get on the Internet. Just about anybody can
bug anybody else's cell phone easily.
There are a few things that will give
you a clue that your cell phone has been bugged, but there's no way for
you to know for sure:
- Your battery life is suddenly
much shorter. The phone has to use its battery to send
voice and data to the person bugging the phone. While the battery
could have reached the end of its life, if it does the same thing
with a new battery... you're bugged. If you remove the battery
entirely, the cell phone can't be used to bug you.
- The phone is warm between calls.
Cell phones range from warm to really hot when they're being
used. If you're not talking on the phone, and it's supposed to be
idle waiting for a call, if the phone stays warm it's got to be in
use by the person bugging you (and bsattery life will be shorter if
it's not plugged into the charger).
- Your cell phone's available
memory keeps getting lower. If you can check the available
memory on your cell phone from a setup menu of some sort, and you
notice it continually going down but you're not running any programs
or receiving lots of emails etc., that could be an indication that
the phone is storing up your conversations, emails and text messages
to be transmitted in a batch to the person bugging your phone,
later. On the other hand, if you use lots of programs on your smart
phone, and receive lots of email and messages, this may not be a
reliable indicator. If you don't want to be bugged, or at least you
want to know you're being bugged, the simplest cell phone could be
the best (not a smart phone).
- The interference from your phone changes. All cell
phones interfere with certain phones, computer monitors, AM or FM
radios, TVs or whatever electronic devices they get close to. You've
probably noticed that when they're idle you'll get little blips
of interference here and there. You can even hear it on TV when the
newsman has his cell phone in his suit breast pocket, and he has a
little mic on his tie that picks up the noise from the cell phone.
When you're not using the phone, unless it's receiving a large email
or you have some kind of program running on the phone, and you hear
constant noise instead of little blips hear and there, your phone is
probably bugging you through the mic - listening to everything you
say and broadcasting it to the person bugging your phone.
How can you stop your cell phone from being bugged? You can't.
Your only hope of preventing a cell phone from being bugged is to go
the Biggie-Mart store, buy a prepaid cell phone, and use it until you
have to leave it out of your sight for a few minutes. If you take it
into the bathroom and shower with you, put it under your pillow when you
sleep (alone), and never leave it out of your sight, you can probably
use it for a few days.
Once the government gets your cell phone number, probably by bugging
who you're calling, they'll be able to listen in to everything you say
on your phone immediately. They may even be able to go back and listen
to the archives once they know the phone number of the cell phone you
were using. The government can legally tap any land-line
and cell phone, and most VoIP conversations. The equipment is already
setup at the phone companies so they can do this quickly.
The scary thing is that the same senators and congressmen who
approved the government tapping any call are at risk for their
conversations being heard through this easy-to-do government system.
Politics is a dirty business, and laws aren't all that important (except
for the few politicians who are caught).
solution? Don't say anything you don't want overheard!
It's safe to assume that
everything you say or do can be intercepted very easily.
Before the Internet if someone wanted
private information they probably broke into your home or office, your
doctor's office, or your friend's or business associate's home or
office. They made copies of the papers they found, stole the documents
entirely, or maybe hooked up a wired bug or two. Even President Nixon
used these methods against the Democrats.
With the advent of the Internet you
have to assume there is no privacy. Any emails you send, records
that your doctor stores on his office computer network, or anything you
look at on your computer or cell phone's browser is recorded somewhere.
It's so easy to put software on a
computer in your home or office (or your doctor's office) or on your cell phone to record
everything you do, it's now trivial. Even non-techies can
find a way to do this by doing a simple google search, anytime.
It's cheap and easy. Even though it's illegal for everybody except
the government with a search warrant, there is so little enforcement
that even the police think nothing of bugging someone without a search
warrant (or they can get unbelievably broad warrants to bug anybody at
any time). It's just so easy that it's a no-brainer.
Don't say or do anything you
don't want overheard / seen by others!
So what about those devices
you see advertised that they'll detect bugs on a phone line?
Most of them are total garbage.
Some will tell you that someone has actually gone off-hook on an extension
phone, but since the volume drops and you usually hear a click when
someone picks up a phone you probably don't need it.
professionals will be using a high resistance device that is nearly
impossible to detect after it's been installed.
But wait... it is possible to put a gizmo on a phone line to
tell you whether there has been any change in resistance/capacitance on the line, and some devices
will even detect a high resistance device quite a ways from the premise.
Once a gizmo like that gives
you an "alert," you'd to use a TDR to verify
every little blip on the line to make sure it is / is not a bug.
Before you put that gizmo on
the line, you would need to verify that the line has no bugs using a TDR, and
then put the bug
detecting gizmo on the line. If a bug was on the line before even the most
sensitive bug detector was put on the line, the gizmo could never detect
While it's possible to make a device like
this that would work after a TDR was used, it would
probably be pretty expensive and not 100% depending on how far from the
premise the bug is placed.
someone puts a bug at the Phone Company's Central Office, nobody
is going to detect that. If someone installs that type of bug they're
either the government or they've paid off a phone man at the CO. Either
way, you'll never know.
the government wants to hear your conversations, all bets are off. They
have the capabilities to monitor any phone including your digital cell
phone in the comfort of their own office all day and night long and
there's no way you'll know, and nothing you can do about it.
the Iridium satellite system went bankrupt years ago, calls between two
Iridium satellite phones went directly to the other phone through a
satellite. There was no way for anybody to monitor that conversation (or
data), because it never went through a "central office." Other
satellite phone service providers route every call through a ground
station, which gives the government a place to monitor the calls. Since
the government helped save the Iridium system, I'm betting they can now
monitor those calls as well.
can buy an RF frequency counter/detector with a directional antenna to
detect RF bugs, and go looking for sources of RF yourself. A problem with
doing that is that you need an RF detector that covers essentially the
whole radio spectrum - which can be pretty expensive. Cheaper detectors
will cover the most commonly used frequency bands, but do you really want
the false sense of security thinking that you just checked all of the
you might see Google ads for bug detectors, don't believe
every ad you read on the Internet!
you still want to see if there are any bugs, it's time to call a
professional. The industry is called Counter Surveillance.
Unfortunately, there are professionals - and then there are scam artists
that call themselves professionals, and they might even have some fancy
looking equipment. They might find a bug (if they trip over it), but
they're not really looking for them. All they're going to do is take your
money and give you a very false sense of security.
you're a company who's coming out with some fantastic new gizmo where if
the news of it leaked out it would cost you big, or you suspect a leak in your board
room (from bugs, not board members), it's time to call for help - knowing
that the cost is well worth it.
If you think you're being bugged because
your husband or wife thinks you're screwing
around, it's probably not worth hiring a professional.
By the way, be very careful using GE or RCA
line phones, since many have crosstalk right from the factory that
allows someone to overhear a conversation at a low volume on one line by picking up
another line (those junky GE or RCA phones that Jack Welsh had in his
mansion cost him $180 million in his divorce battle!).
Here are two Counter
Surveillance professionals who from my research are going to do a real
sweep for bugs (and who are not cheap). If they can't come to your area,
ask them for a recommendation - don't just look for someone on the
- James Atkinson
Granite Island Group
127 Eastern Avenue #291
Gloucester, MA 01931-8008
http://www.tscm.com/ (lots of very good technical
- Rick Udovich
Communication Security, Inc.
P.O. Box 1815
Bay City, TX 77404
You probably should only call
them from a pay phone or your new prepaid digital cell phone, outside in the open,
since you're already thinking your phone line is bugged. Email may not be
safe. If the person who bugged you gets wind that you're going to look for
their bugs they may remove them until after you've had the sweep done,
and then put them back.