By Alan Earl

When a visitor is not who you thought

Corporate spying

Do you take on face value everyone who comes to your offices? Whether employee or visitor, there is always risk of intellectual propertt theft and corporate espionage. Look at the five visitors above; the four on the left are visitors from a consulting firm signing in at front desk and waiting to meet their client. The woman on the right is waiting to meet her friend for coffee. Or are they?

The group on the left are indeed visitors from a consulting firm waiting to meet their client; however, one of the group provides corporate intelligence services to his own clients for a handsome fee – he is a corporate spy for hire. During a previous visit he observed the board room was two doors from the mens toilets and his intention during today’s visit is to take advantage of his knowledge and deploy a GSM bug which looks just like a mobile phone charger, into a wall socket in the boardroom whilst supposedly en-route to the toilet. Given there is a board meeting in the coming days, the strategic and confidential information he will collect will be of good value to his client.


The woman on the right is waiting to meet a friend she recently met, however, this friend has been social-engineered over the past few months by this woman, who just happens to be a corporate spy. The employee has revealed to her personal details in recent weeks - that she is a single parent, earning low income, struggling to make ends meet; she has been groomed and exposed. Knowing the employee’s vulnerabilities, the spy’s intent today is to offer some financial assistance to the employee; over coffee the employee is going to be offered a sum of money in return for simply placing a book on the board room book shelf and remove it again in a weeks’ time.

Without questioning and wanting to take advantage of some easy cash, the employee will accept the request; unknown to the employee, the book contains a video and audio transmission and recording device. The employee is now an insider threat and the forthcoming board meeting is compromised Although the above scenarios are fictitious, espionage and Intellectual property theft is a real threat to corporate Australia and the World.


On 9 May 2017, local Liberal MP Michael O’Brien (@michaelobrienmp) purported to have received an email from a University student offering to volunteer his services to the Liberal Party (O'Brien, 2017). Upon rudimentary open source searches, the volunteer was discovered to have worked for a federal ALP candidate in the 2016 election. Although the initial reaction from Mr O’Brien was that of concern, “a Labour Operative has tried to infiltrate a Liberal parliamentary office under false pretences” (James Dowling, 2017), the volunteer has protested his innocence stating his motivation was to look at different political perspectives.

Whether there was or was not an attempt to infiltrate the Liberal Party, the situation highlights the real risk of espionage. Whether an organisation has hired new staff, contractors or taken on interns, there is always the risk of an insider threat and corporate espionage. Once a person has access to rooms and offices, any type of illicit eavesdropping device can be easily concealed in countless spaces. If an organisation has something worth selling, they have something worth stealing and that something is a competitive advantage to the corporate competition.

To help ensure intellectual property remains in house and not in the hands of the opposition, companies should undertake security measures to ensure eavesdropping devices have not been deployed and concealed in offices, board rooms and other areas where sensitive and confidential information is discussed. If you are not looking for it, you won’t know it is there…. until it is too late.

Australian Bug Detection Group provides a professional Technical Surveillance Counter Measures service to corporate clients and Government departments. Whether a potential threat has been highlighted by the client or it is a matter of good corporate governance, we undertake technical surveys and physical searches for illicit electronic eavesdropping devices, hidden cameras, transmitters and recorders.

Contact Australian Bug Detection Group today to discuss your security.

Copyright Alan Earl

Alan Earl is the managing director of Australian Bug Detection Group which provides Technical Surveillance Countermeasures across Australia. He has been working in the security industry for over a decade and is regularly engaged by multinational corporate clients and Government departments to conduct TSCM surveys.

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