Hats off to the makers of the latest crime drama “By Any Means”. The programme focuses on the work of a covert and unorthodox Police unit who go after the untouchable criminal element. While the concept is not new and the plots are tongue in cheek what is impressive is the references the programme makes to technical surveillance and technical surveillance counter measures and just how easy they are to be deployed.
In the first episode a crime lord had his premises and vehicle regularly electronically swept for covert listening and tracking devices whilst in the second episode we saw the villain planting a covert listening device under a chair and a tracking device under a vehicle wheel arch.

Notwithstanding the flashing LED on each device put there by the programme makers to ensure the audience could see them, what was accurate was the time it took to plant the devices (seconds). We also saw the villain using a mobile telephone to ring the bugging device and listen to the conversations in the room and also through a down-loadable application being able to watch in live real time the movements of the vehicle on which he had placed the tracking device.

Far fetched? Not at all. For a couple of hundred pounds anyone can buy a GSM listening device and a GSM tracking device. Various internet sites openly offer these products for sale. With a smartphone you can ring the listening de-vice from anywhere in the world and as long as the battery lasts, listen to the conversations in the room while also monitoring the movements of the relevant vehicle. Ideal for intelligence gathering on a competitor, spying on a partner or for those looking to compromise a high profile individual, or on an even darker side, ‘the stalker’.

The other thing that struck home was the fact that criminals are a lot more au fait with the use of technical surveil-lance devices and technical surveillance counter measures than ordinary decent law-abiding people. There are some security managers who believe their information is secure because they have a man on the gate. Maybe “By Any Means” should be compulsory viewing for these people as it demonstrates just how easy it is to be compromised.

All organisations have policies in place for HR, health and safety and a host of other issues. Sadly very few have within their security plan a technical surveillance counter measures (TCSM) policy that involves the regular electronic sweeping of sensitive areas or residences by a skilled TSCM specialist.

Doesn’t it seem a little strange that organisations have a process for checking that fire extinguishers are fit for purpose, for taking up a new employees’ references to ensure that their work history is as they claim yet few if any have a policy to ensure that the private areas where the most critical strategic and financial decisions are made are indeed private?