How do you know when you are being bugged?


June 4, 2004

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Most of us have heard the story: a couple book into a hotel room, lock the door, relax and enjoy their privacy. A week later their more intimate moments have been posted on the web, complete with audio, and downloaded across the globe. They return to the scene of the crime but find no evidence of hidden cameras or listening devices. It sounds like an urban myth but it's not - otherwise there wouldn't be a market for Radio Frequency (RF) detectors outside the world of bad guys. Granted there is more than one reason why someone might want to see or hear what's going on in a hotel room, but according to retailers Ozspy, the majority of RF detectors are sold to travelling business people who want to ensure that they don't wind up on

A number of inconspicuous units are available with varying range and sensitivity from the key-ring Flora and Toguard, which are best suited to wireless camera detection, to the palm-sized RF Superior Sensitivity Signal Detector, which is better equipped to detect other RF emitting devices such as bugs and cellular phones. The 20x20x70mm Flora weighs just 40g, is simple to operate and works within five metres for frequencies between 3MHz to 4000MHz. Turn it on and a green light at the top of the unit indicates that no bugs have been detected, if there's a red flashing light a device is present. Due to its size and low price (AUS$119), the Flora is a popular item. Wireless camera systems sold in Australia operate at either 900MHz, 1.2 GHz or 1.4 GHz, with mobiles phones at 900MHz and the Flora can be blind to some frequencies. So for serious debugging there's the RF Signal Detector - this 87 x 55 x 24mm, 90g unit detects frequencies from 50MHz to 3 GHz- and has a much wider range than the smaller models. The RF Signal Detector has three sensitivity settings and can be turned down to eliminate background noise, particularly in and around cities. An audio alert is included with the lights when a signal is detected, although it can be switched to silent detection mode if necessary, and an indication of the strength of the detected signal is also given. The RF Signal Detector costs $AUS290 and is available from OzSpy, call 1300 553779 or visit to see the company's complete range of spy gear.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, (Australia's largest Telco), (Australia's largest employment site),,, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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