Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM) services are conducted for the purpose of locating illegal active and passive electronic surveillance devices used to collect private, confidential or proprietary information. TSCM services should also identify both existing and potential non-technical and cyber security weaknesses related to the protection of privacy and information.
Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM), Counter Surveillance (CS), Counterintelligence (CI), Technical Security (TS), Communication Security (COMSEC), electronic debugging (bug sweeps, eavesdropping and wiretap detection) may be familiar terms. However, most businesses and individuals do not possess a strong understanding of TSCM services, what is involved in a proper "bug sweep" or TSCM survey / inspection, or who to contact when these services are required. Because of this, most businesses do not have the ability to properly monitor and assess or evaluate the services being performed.
To make matters more difficult, TSCM service providers come with a variety of backgrounds, experience, training and equipment, offering various types of service levels and operational set ups. Knowing which operator will best serve your particular
requirements is not an easy task.
It is no secret that eavesdropping, spying and theft of information are growing problems. Whether it is due to business, legal or personal matters, sales of devices for the purpose of conducting surveillance and gathering information or intelligence has
become a multimillion dollar business in North America. Losses due to theft of information are estimated to be in the billions of dollars, while causing irreparable damage to businesses and individuals.
Electronic devices can be quite small and easily hidden. They can be sound or voice activated, pre-programmed to turn on and off
at certain times or switched on and off remotely. Some devices will transmit intermittently while others transmit signals that are hidden within stronger signals to mask their presence. Others are hard wired and do not give off RF transmissions or simply
record audio or video for retrieval at a later time. There are devices that utilize GSM and Wi-Fi based technology and can be
called up from a telephone anywhere in the world and activated to record or monitor activity in real time. In addition there are
devices that utilize ultra sonic, inductive and visible light technology to transmit audio information.
Electronic surveillance devices have become more sophisticated, affordable, simple to use, readily available and pose a
significant threat. But they are not the only way of obtaining private or confidential information. Many times, compromise and information loss does not involve technical devices but is the result of poor policy, physical security weakness or human error.
These factors have contributed to the increased targeting of cellular communication equipment and software as well as computers and networks as selected methods for obtaining personal, confidential or proprietary information.
When an electronic device of some sort is located, the majority of the time it is discovered during the physical inspection. With
this in mind, the physical search becomes a vital element to a TSCM survey or inspection. Not only does the physical portion of the service account for most devices that are located, it also uncovers the non-technical issues responsible for compromise and information loss.
The physical inspection is one area that cannot be neglected. We often see a heavy reliance on electronic equipment which
cannot replace a proper physical inspection. Cursory checks in obvious places performed as part of a limited physical search are
not detailed enough and of little value. Such practices can result in trace evidence or other details being missed that may indicate either past or present compromise.
There is a wide variety of sophisticated electronic equipment utilized in the TSCM service industry. Some examples of common equipment used during TSCM services are, spectrum analyzers, telephone analyzers, broadband receivers, communication receivers, non-linear junction detectors and thermal imaging cameras.
However, it is important to remember that while electronic equipment is of great value in helping locate devices used for eavesdropping or surveillance and is a necessary part of proper TSCM services, all equipment has limitations. No piece or type of equipment can do everything and in no way can the results obtained from any equipment be considered a guarantee as to the presence of electronic devices.
Time of a service performed, type of device, placement of a device, control of device or remote operation, device installation, physical security, skills of the eavesdropper as well as skill level of the TSCM operator are all factors that can limit or even nullify
the effectiveness of TSCM inspection equipment.
Add to all of this, in many cases the fact the sweep being performed is not a secret and has been discussed with other parties seriously affects the covert nature of TSCM services and possibly alerts an eavesdropper in advance.
As our use of technology continues to grow and our means of communicating, sharing and storing information expands, electronic surveillance devices have become just one of many avenues with which information can be obtained. While the threat posed by electronic surveillance devices is significant, TSCM service providers are faced with many other methods being utilized.
TSCM is not an exact science and is always affected by many factors and circumstances both physical and electronic. However, TSCM services can provide an added layer of protection when combined with other elements of security and when performed regularly or periodically as part of an ongoing program.
Unfortunately for potential clients, while deciding whether or not to have TSCM services performed is difficult, deciding on the right service provider a is often the toughest part of the process.
* Waypoint Counter Surveillance is committed to educating our clients about TSCM services with honest accurate information
while providing the most effective solutions for all of their TSCM service requirements.