Stop Bugging Me

1 minute read
Bryan Walsh

The espionage game once spawned plenty of cool spy gear, like poison-tipped umbrellas and recording devices disguised as ballpoint pens. But it’s all getting so low-rent. Corporate spies are now using ordinary cell phones as cheap eavesdropping devices. Phones switched to idle and silent mode and set to answer calls automatically can be “accidentally” left behind in an officewhen a spook excuses himself from a meeting to use the bathroom, for exampleand activated remotely from another handset, allowing the user to listen in without the occupants’ knowledge. The scam is more cunning than it sounds: So-called “bug sweepers” that reveal the presence of electronic listening devices ignore the radio frequencies used by cell phones because they are always jammed with traffic, and mobile handsets are so ubiquitous and innocuous that people tend to overlook them. But now there’s a countermeasure. An Israeli company, Netline Communications Technologies, has devised a $1,350 gadget that detects cell-phone transmissions within an area roughly the size of a large officeand it plays MP3s, too. So it looks like corporate spies may have to go back to plantingbugs the old fashioned way.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com