Why Sweep?

The best security is comprised of multiple elements, including:

  • Physical – locks, alarms, access control
  • Personnel – Guards, Executive Protection
  • Procedures – a set of rules that define appropriate responses to scenarios

The final element is Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM), also known as “sweeps” or “bug detection.” During a TSCM examination, sophisticated equipment is used to detect and locate eavesdropping devices. The TSCM examination protects your privacy from adversaries outside, as well as insiders who may have turned against you or are being unwittingly used against you. It is often the insider who poses the biggest threat because they are trusted and have full access to your most sensitive areas.

One need only do a search on the internet for “spy cameras”, for instance, to see how small and affordable eavesdropping devices are today, as well as how seemingly innocuous devices can be modified to host surveillance devices. Modern technology and easy availability have made these devices available to anyone, and their sophistication and size have made them very difficult to detect except by a highly trained TSCM expert.

Best practices in risk mitigation dictate regular TSCM examinations on a fixed schedule as the best way to ensure your privacy and negate the threat of an insider; however, there are other situations which should initiate a TSCM examination for cause.

Donald Sterling, former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers NBA team, was forced to sell his team after a trusted friend secretly recorded him and passed the recording to the media.

Erin Andrews, ESPN reporter, won a $55 million judgment against the Nashville Marriott Hotel for not protecting her, by allowing a voyeur to secretly record her while she was undressed in her hotel room and then publish the video to the internet.

Sharon Leach, a Ford Motor Company engineer, was arrested for planting voice-activated digital recorders in company conference rooms.


Warning Signs

Sometimes, you just know that someone has access to your private information.

Some signs that someone may be targeting you by eavesdropping include:

  • Trade secrets known to competitors
  • Hiring and firing decisions are known before they are announced
  • Your company’s bids are consistently underbid by a small amount
  • Your competitor comes out with a similar product to yours right before you launch

Physical indicators of illegal eavesdropping include:

  • Unexplained dust from ceiling tiles or drywall
  • Office furniture or computers are moved
  • Unexplained presence of new electronics items in office
  • Numerous false alarms, or security system is disarmed in morning
  • Unexplained footprints in snow or mud

Foreign Visitors

The globalization of business has brought many opportunities, but also new risks.  Collaboration with foreign companies is increasingly common and frequently involves employees from those companies visiting your facilities. It is not unusual for foreign visitors to actually be spies for their companies or for a foreign government.

What do these spies want?  While defense contractors are certainly attractive targets because of secret military products they are working on, all industries are in fact possible targets.  The automotive industry, for example, has been systematically targeted by foreign governments in order to steal valuable research and development and provide it to state-owned companies for economic gain. Industry trade secrets, from cutting-edge technology that gives companies an advantage in the global marketplace, to more common proprietary processes that give companies an advantage over their competitors in terms of efficiency, are sought by foreign competitors to increase their market share at your expense.

The FBI estimates that every year billions of dollars worth of business are lost to competitors who steal trade secrets and technology held by U.S. industries.

Visitors entering your facility could pose a security risk to your intellectual property or competitive edge.  It is an opportunity for competitors to collect information that is not readily available to them. Long term visits or joint ventures may provide an even greater opportunity for a competing company to obtain restricted information.  Some visitors may be trained to surreptitiously install eavesdropping devices to learn your secrets.  They may also provide an opportunity for visitors to spot, assess, and befriend employees that may assist (either wittingly or unwittingly) in collecting restricted information for a visitor during the time of the visit or in the future.

Effective risk mitigation for companies that host foreign visitors should include periodic TSCM examinations during the course of the visit, as well as a thorough examination after the visit is concluded.

Examples of information sought by these spies includes:

  • Proprietary formulas and processes
  • Prototypes or blueprints
  • Research
  • Technical components and plans
  • Confidential documents
  • Employee data
  • Manufacturing plans
  • Equipment specifications
  • Vendor information
  • Customer data
  • Negotiation strategies
  • Sales forecasts
  • Pricing strategies
  • Corporate strategies
  • Marketing strategies
  • Acquisition strategies
  • Budget estimates/expenditures
  • Corporate financial data
  • Investment data

Theft of Intellectual Property could result in:

  • Lost revenue
  • Lost employment
  • Damaged reputation
  • Health and safety concerns from counterfeit products
  • Lost investment in R&D
  • Delays or interruption in production

Make it as difficult as possible for competitors to steal your information by having regular TSCM examinations performed by Northport Security.