Toronto Real Estate News

By Laura Morrison. June 1, 1990.

Ever wonder if the walls have ears? Many companies are no longer taking chances -- they're investing in counter-surveillance equipment to ensure boardroom secrets stay that way.

Kevin Bousquet of Protect Your Business says since January he has sold counter-surveillance equipment and services to 90 firms listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

And his clients aren't paranoid, he said. "When it comes down to dollars and cents, everything goes."

Whether it's a proxy battle, a hostile takeover or corporate espionage, things can get dirty. said the former private investigator. So companies are taking measures to protect themselves against electronic eavesdropping.

No security system will ever be infallible, Mr. Bousquet said. Even the most elaborate system can't prevent a disgruntled employee from spilling the beans to a competitor.

And short of television spy Maxwell Smart's cone of silence, there's probably no way to beat the more sophisticated surveillance techniques. such as a laser that's beamed on to a window from the outside to pick up vibrations while the occupants of the room are talking.

But interior security sweeps can prevent bugging from within. The security consultant recommends electronic sweeps of company boardrooms shortly before all important meetings.

The sweeps will detect any RF (radio frequency) bugs or hidden tape recorders. The firm Mr. Bousquet contracts out to charges $325 an hour for a sweep. The firm is operated by an ex-RCMP officer experienced in surveillance.

Those attending a meeting can be checked for bugs as they enter a room and a paper shredder should be placed inside to destroy confidential material at the conclusion of the session.

For those who really want to make sure they aren't recorded, an audio jammer can be installed in the board room. This device will create background noise that will foil any attempts at tape recording. However, it will also make it difficult for those attending the meeting to hear what's being said. For that reason, Mr. Bousquet recommends against using this type of equipment.

Business people can also purchase equipment to conduct their own security sweeps. These devices can detect RF bugs, tape recorders and even video cameras and range in price from about $900 to more than $3,000, depending on their capabilities.

Some detectors are so small they can be hidden in a suit pocket and will sense a bug or tape recorder when you shake hands with the person carrying them. "The government is very big on this stuff."

Another popular device is the telephone scrambler. These come in pairs and work somewhat like walky talkies. Partners, for instance, can install them on their phones to ensure they have a safe line of communication that can't be tapped. The battery-operated units can be attached to any phone including car phones. They retail for about $1,000 a pair.

Fax scramblers are also available for firms who conduct extensive business together and want safe lines of transmission. Like the telephone scramblers, the fax scramblers must be attached at both ends of the line. They retail For about $3,000 a pair.

Other James Bond-like gadgets available to the office market include electronic tap detectors ($395 to $1,300); phone censors that only accept calls with the proper pass code ($50); and call controllers that either prevent long distance calls from being placed or record record the telephone numbers of long distance calls and the extensions from which they were placed ($189 to $3,000, depending on capabilities).

And if your objective is to record your conversations rather than cloak them, there are long-play tape recorders you can attach to a telephone ($289 to $325) and briefcases with hidden tape recorders activated by the case's handle ($725).

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