TSCM - Frequently Asked Questions

What does Technical Surveillance Counter Measures (TSCM) mean?
A Technical Surveillance Counter Measure (TSCM) sweep is also commonly referred to as an Electronic Bug Sweep or an Electronic Surveillance Sweep. A TSCM survey is a service provided by qualified personnel to detect the presence of technical surveillance devices (eavesdropping or spying devices) and other information security hazards and to identify technical and communications security weaknesses that could aid in the technical penetration of the surveyed facility.back to top

What is the definition of Counter surveillance?
Counter surveillance refers to measures taken to prevent or disrupt surveillance, including measures to prevent electronic eavesdropping. Counter surveillance may include electronic methods such as TSCM “bug” sweeping, the process of detecting surveillance devices, including covert listening devices and visual surveillance devices (video). More often than not, counter surveillance will employ a set of actions (countermeasures) that, when followed, reduce the risk of effective surveillance.back to top

Who is a target of eavesdropping or spying?
Companies, law firms, non-profit entities and charities, governments, private individuals, no one is immune from spying. The bottom line is, if you discuss valuable information that would be of benefit to anyone, be they a business competitor, opponent in a lawsuit or some other adversary, then you are a potential target of electronic eavesdropping.back to top

What are some indicators or “warning signs” that you are the subject of spying?

  • You recently lost a Bid or Request For Proposal that you would normally win
  • You have an unexplained decrease in new sales
  • Your companies business strategies are revealed
  • Your pricing and sales strategy is known by your competitors
  • Contract negotiations for labor and contracts are more increasing more difficult
  • Company trade secrets are exposed

If any of the above has occurred, you should consider revisiting your risk management protocols and consider scheduled Technical Surveillance Counter Measure sweeps.back to top

What are some high threat business situations?
Anyone can be the target of covert eavesdropping and spying however; some companies or organizations are at higher risk than others because of their occupation, financial position or legal situation. A company is most in danger of an electronic eavesdropping attack when:

  • Business expansion or reorganization plans are being discussed
  • Key executive(s) leave or are leaving
  • New products, pricing or marketing plans are being developed
  • Acquisitions or mergers are being planned.
  • It is in a sensitive or high profile industry
  • Executives or clients are subject to media attention.
  • There are ongoing labor negotiations, labor problems or union activities
  • It is involved in any type of litigation, lawsuit, or other civil action
  • It is considering laying off or terminating employees or already in the process of doing so
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Where are you likely to be targeted?
The Company boardroom, telephone system, mobile phones, fax machines, computers are examples of sources of confidential information that may be targets for the eavesdropper. Also, eavesdropping need not be confined to the company office. Executives and other key personnel can be targets at home or in their automobiles

What are typical environments where a listening device would be hidden?

  • Business Offices, including conference rooms, boardrooms and trading floors
  • Private Residences
  • Executive Residences
  • Corporate Apartments
  • Vehicles (Cars, Aircraft, Boats)
  • Cell Phones
  • Home Phones (landlines)
  • Quarterly Board meetings
  • Off-site business meetings

Any area in which important information, that would be valuable to a third party, would be openly discussed with other persons present or via a telecommunication device present in that area, which has not previously been rendered secure.back to top

What types of devices will you screen for during the sweep?

There are many types of electronic eavesdropping devices or bugs. During an MSA Investigations TSCM sweep, we will typically search for the following devices:

  • Micro wireless video devices
  • Laser and infrared eavesdropping devices
  • RF, UHF and VHF wireless transmitters
  • Wire and microphone taps
  • Telephone taps
  • Carrier current devices
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Where can bugs be hidden?
Electronic eavesdropping devices (bugs) can be hidden in any room, device, furnishing or container that would typically be found in an office or home setting. Today’s eavesdropping devices are smaller, more sophisticated, less expensive and easier to hide than they have ever been. Video as well as audio can be captured, recorded or even transmitted live. The good news is that all of these devices are detectable with the right people, equipment and methodology.back to top

What happens during a typical MSA Investigations TSCM examination?
Our TSCM professionals will conduct a detailed examination of your location in order to:

  • Discretely determine the threat to the location
  • Detect the presence of technical surveillance devices and hazards
  • Identify technical security weaknesses that may allow illegal penetration of your facility
  • Provide a professional evaluation of your facility’s technical security position

During the actual sweep, our team will visit the location of concern and perform a comprehensive visual, physical, and electronic inspection to determine the presence and location of any and all electronic eavesdropping devices. We will also identify other technical weaknesses that may exist in your security posture.

During visual inspections, we look for hidden eavesdropping devices in areas in which they are commonly found.

During physical inspections, we take it a step further, physically and thoroughly examining furniture, outlet covers, ceilings, and other locations commonly housing hidden eavesdropping devices such as microphones, recording devices, transmitters, camera systems, and more. During the electronic inspection we use a variety of sophisticated electronic equipment to identify and locate hostile signals and other tell tale signs from eavesdropping equipment that may be secreted in the area. Additionally, we survey AC electrical outlets, telephone cables, computer lines, and other wiring capable of transmitting communication, looking for wiretapping and other intercept devices.

After all TSCM sweeps, we will provide you with a detailed written report of the results of our examination and any recommendations on improving your technical security posture. Should any follow-up measures be needed (e.g. the removal of a recording device), we will work with you to identify the origin of the device and help put measures in place to reduce future risk of attack.back to top

How long does it take for a TSCM sweep to be conducted?
TSCM Sweeps can take anywhere from a few hours, to a few days and in some cases as long as a couple of weeks. It depends on the size of the area or building to be swept, and the amount of electronic and communications present within the concerned area.back to top

What does a Legitimate Bug Sweep Cost?
Electronic eavesdropping detection is a highly specialized and professional field. It requires an array of sophisticated and expensive hardware equipment and specialized software. Additionally, it requires years of practical experience and ongoing training to master the craft and to remain current in the field. It is not a service that can be effectively provided at a discount. The fees for our services are fair and consistent with the skill of our technicians and the value of the comprehensive TSCM sweep that we provide. It is also consistent with the industry pricing for a sweep conducted by a legitimate professional TSCM provider.

You should be prepared to invest between $3,000 and $4,500 for a typical, small one-day TSCM sweep. Sometimes smaller, less comprehensive TSCM sweeps can be accomplished at a lower cost in some low threat situations only. The pricing for these TSCM sweeps is on a case-by-case basis.

Recurring scheduled inspections tend to be more cost effective and offer the best value, as we will establish a baseline friendly RF signal list during the initial TSCM sweep and build on this history during each recurring TSCM sweep. This signal history can then be used during each recurring sweep and will save the technician’s time and therefore the client money. It will also allow for a more effective TSCM sweep.back to top

What is your coverage area?
MSA Investigation provides Technical Surveillance Counter Measure sweeps throughout the United States. We are also available to provide these services in most other countries.back to top