In the modern post-Snowden world, the idea that we’re all constantly being watched is not as farfetched as it once was. But how does an individual who thinks they are being watched all the time avoid being watched?
Speaking at last week’s Defcon security conference, Philip Polstra, associate professor of Digital Forensics at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, detailed some best practices for those who believe they are being watched, followed or bugged.
“It could be national or local authorities, stalkers or even people that just don’t like you,” Polstra said of the people who might follow an individual.
He provided a number of low-cost actions that people can take to avoid surveillance.
Dodging Digital Cameras
While everyone has a camera on their phones, Polstra noted there can also be hidden cameras placed in homes or businesses. He suggested using an infrared TV remote controller, which can sometimes be used to trigger hidden night vision cameras, to see if such cameras are present.
Even when hidden, cameras still typically require WiFi access in order to communicate. So paranoid people should be on the lookout for unknown WiFi networks, Polstra said.
What about being followed, or tailed, by a car? Polstra noted that while non-government adversaries will choose any kind of vehicle they want, the government typically uses black SUVs and Ford Crown Victorias.
A tail is considered to be blown if the subject has three suspicious impressions, he said, suggesting that individuals “look around” at other cars. “Maybe they’re going the same way, maybe not,” he said.
Cars can also be tailed through the use of “bumper beepers” that track a car’s location. Simply turning on the AM radio in a car and scanning all the channels for one that is just broadcasting a single strong tone can indicate a beeper is present, Polstra suggested.
For individuals hoping to avoid being tailed, Polstra advised taking unusual routes, driving through residential areas and occasionally simply parking for no reason.
For those who think their offices or homes are being monitored or staked out, Polstra offered a test: “If someone has a view of all your exits, that’s probably not coincidental and it could be a stakeout,” he said.
Bugs placed inside hardware are another potential risk for the paranoid. One way to detect bugs, Polstra said, is to look for power drains on things that should not be running.
“In summary choose your level of paranoia,” Polstra said. “If you’re paranoid and not rich, you can test things without financial ruin.”
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eSecurityPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.