Glossary of Counter Surveillance Terms

Published: 03rd June 2010
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Ever wondered about all of those strange phrases in spy movies? Surveillance and counter surveillance has its own jargon filled with acronyms and technical terminology. But fear not, here is the A-Z of the most popular terms used within the spying game.

Bug - a hidden electronic device used to capture, record and/or transmit data to a receiving party. Most often this is a small concealed microphone combined with a radio transmitter.

Bug Sweeping - this is an exercise carried out by counter surveillance professionals to detect and remove covert audio and visual surveillance devices from areas such as private residences, vehicles and company boardrooms.

Contact Microphone - a microphone used by eavesdroppers to pick up sound when it is placed in direct contact with a wall or other large flat vibrating surface.

Countermeasures - actions taken to counter eavesdropping, surveillance and security threats. Countermeasures range from regular electronic bug sweeps of a building to simply implementing security guidelines for an organisation.

Counter Surveillance - the measures taken to prevent unwanted surveillance including covert surveillance. Counter surveillance methods might include electronic processes such as bug sweeping or human inspection of premises. Counter surveillance will often employ a set of countermeasures to reduce the risk of future surveillance threats.

Dead Letter Box - A secret location where spies can leave items such as reports for each other without the danger of face to face meetings.

GSM Device - Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) devices use the mobile telephone infrastructure and technology to relay audio to an eavesdropper in a remote location. The global nature of the mobile telephone network is such that a device planted in a boardroom in one city can be monitored from a location safely on the other side of the world.

GSM Detector - an electronic device used to detect the presence of active mobile phones in the surrounding area that are using the GSM service.

Satellite Phone Blocker - blocks those parts of the L-band spectrum used by satellite telephones by emitting a modulated signal sweeping over the band which drowns out local reception from the satellites.

SITREP - an abbreviation of 'Situation Report'. CIA jargon.

Spare Pair - in telephone systems a 'spare pair' of wires in the phone cable can sometimes be used by eavesdroppers to listen in to conversations taking place on the phone itself and occurring in the vicinity of the handset.

Tiger Testing - originated in the US military and refers to a technique they use to test their own base defences. The same Tiger Testing technique has proved successful in commercial situation. A tiger test involves a team of professionals attempting to covertly enter a location and access predetermined data from the client without the alarm being raised. At the end of the exercise hidden security lapses and weaknesses in information storage are revealed, enabling the organisation to put into place effective countermeasures.

TSCM - is the acronym for 'Technical Surveillance Counter Measures'. These are the actions and tools deployed by counter surveillance professionals to detect the presence of

technical and communications devices, and physical security hazards that threaten the security of their data. A TSCM survey involves the detection of such hazards, their removal and implementation of countermeasures to ensure the future protection of their clients security.

Watcher Team - a team of operatives assigned to keep constant surveillance on a specific individual or location.

Wire Tapping - the monitoring of telephone and Internet conversations by a third party, often by covert means. The wire tap got its name as, historically, the monitoring connection was an actual electrical tap on the phone line.

QCC Interscan are TSCM experts based in the City of London, with a wealth of experience in effectively removing the threat posed by covert surveillance.

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