Tricky surveillance

When you want to survey, the main objective is to gather and record your subject without detection. There are many methods to do this, and the most common today are inexpensive devices. Before we discuss that, let’s examine the IP camera, because this is the method used by professionals.

IP cameras transmit what they see to an internet IP address where anyone with access can survey the feed. These devices usually have a central recording device, like a hard-drive that serves as a central recorder or web server, but not always. The devices that do use a central recording mechanism are called “centralized” and the ones that store data locally are “decentralized.”

IP cameras are all the rage because they are usually an inexpensive spy camera suitable for homes and businesses. Because the feed is transmitted to an IP, it can be watched anywhere, making it perfect for spying at a distance, watching over your baby, checking your home while you are at work, or even monitoring your horses in the barn.

IP cameras are often conspicuous, and are usually on all the time, making them easy to detect with a basic sweep. Because they broadcast over an IP, they can often be defeated with a basic dampener that interrupts Wi-Fi. The best IP cameras are usually installed for long-term operation, making them not only discoverable, but also easy to avoid because they cannot be moved easily. These vulnerabilities might be overcome by businesses, but what about collecting sensitive data? If you don’t want to be discovered spying, you need plausible deniability. Your spy camera cannot lead anyone who finds it back to you.

This might be an overused example, but let’s imagine you want to know if your daughter is having sex with her gym teacher in the girl’s locker room. You don’t want to risk the school tipping the teacher off if you come snooping around, so you decide to use a leave-behind spy camera to find out what’s going on. You drop your daughter off for her sporting events and you slip a spy camera into the locker room. It records short bursts for several hours and saves to a flash drive inside a red cigarette lighter housing.

When you pick your daughter up from practice, you go in and pretend you notice the lighter stuck wherever you put it. You slip it in your pocket, and if anyone is around, you have a second red lighter to handover, or throw in the trash conspicuously. This switch tactic almost always allows you to get away with the evidence if anyone did discover it before you and were monitoring the lighter to see who retrieved it.

In this scenario, you have a very delicate situation. If you are discovered taping in a locker room, you will go to jail. If you don’t find out what’s really going on with your daughter, she may get hurt or end up pregnant. You cannot install a device, you need to leave something to record while you are away, and retrieve it later. All this comes as a risk, but you have plausible deniability. You found the lighter, and nobody wants a lighter in the hands of girls so you took it. The chances of anyone identifying the hidden recorder is very slim, and you also have the second lighter to throw in the trash or otherwise distract anyone watching you.

The simple mechanics of this kind of surveillance solution make the biggest threat to personal privacy the small spy camera (not the ip camera). Cell phones, lighters, sun glasses, spy pens, alarm clocks, flashlights, and even the most obvious webcams can be used to record without others knowing about it, and often with plausible deniability.

Someone is always watching.