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Mobiles now the office bugging weapon

MOBILE phones that answer calls silently may be used by eavesdroppers to listen in to office discussions.

Many digital phones now have a feature that lets users mute audible ringing to allow the quiet answering of calls in public places or while the phone diverts to message mode.

Others can be set to automatically answer incoming calls for the safety of people driving in their cars.

Equipped with a hands-free set, the cellphone can pick up sounds from across a room. Most batteries can power the phones for hours or days on standby mode.

A mobile phone hidden in this manner could be an economical, inconspicuous way of establishing a communication link for bugging a room.

Industry sources say private investigators and law enforcement officers have been using this method of bugging for some time.

Higher power transmitters are better over greater distances, but are more expensive and harder to conceal.

Orna Management managing director John Westall said contractors were commonly the weak link in an organisation’s security chain.

“We dealt with a stockbroking company experiencing information leaks leading to insider trading,” Mr Westall said.

“The company was small – comprising only a few partners who had formed trust after years of working together. They were positive it wasn’t one of them.

“The source of the leak turned out to be the cleaner. A quick check under the boardroom table revealed a set of pin microphones had been placed there after hours,” he said.

Mr Westall said another bugging method that had been popular in corporate situations in recent years involved the use of conductive microphones.

“A small sound tile placed against a window can detect sound from resonance against the glass,” he said.

These can be difficult to detect, so some companies have applied a special film to the outside of windows that drowns out internal noise with its own reverberative sound.

Australasia Protective Services director of operations and investigations Michael Martino said debugging corporate offices was one of the company’s main activities.

“Industrial espionage is rife and we spend a lot of time investigating this for our clients,” Mr Martino said.

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