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Test Equipment in General

According to the U.S. government (NSA, State Department, DCI, and others) it impossible to conduct a legitimate TSCM service unless the TSCM technician is using at least $250,000 in tools and equipment and it is not uncommon for a TSCM team to have several times this amount. This is why legitimate TSCM inspections are time consuming and expensive (typically $250 or more per technician, per hour).

Sadly, many TSCM firms cannot afford to buy legitimate tools or test equipment (the Spy Shops, James Bond wanna-be's, and con artists) and often spend only $3,000 to $5,000 to acquire the most basic of electronic gizmo's (which impress the client, but are virtually worthless for actually finding bugs).

Additionally, several civilian PI academies, TSCM schools and spy shops sell "special packages" to their more gullible clients and students who have delusions of making millions performing bug sweeps. Their "special packages" are virtually worthless, and serve as nothing more then fancy props used to impress the client.

In some cases honest people offering "bug sweeping" services may actual possess a low end spectrum analyser or service monitor, and if they are lucky may use a simple time domain reflectometer and broadband field detector. Such equipment is better then nothing, but it will suffice for lower threat sweeps or in cases where time for the sweep is limited.

Also, in low threat situations, or cases where the TSCM specialist has to travel for extended distances for a brief inspection a small briefcase system such as an OSCOR would be appropriate.

What follows is a list of some of the instrumentation which a TSCM firm will have available as a minimum to perform TSCM services.

Real TSCM services involve hundreds of pounds of high specialized, highly sophisticated, and very expensive laboratory grade test equipment. This equipment is used to take a series of complex formal measurements, and to examine items in detail. The results of these numerous measurements are then used to determine the probability of a covert eavesdropping device or activity in an area being examined. If a suspect signal or activity is detected then the laboratory grade equipment is used locate the offending bug, wiretap, or eavesdropper.

All of the equipment in the world will not detect a bug, but instead will only provide the operator with a series of scientific measurements that may indicate the presence or absence of an eavesdropping device in an area being inspected. The equipment operator then has to track down WHAT is causing the readings, determine WHERE it is, and then determine WHY is it there. If the TSCM specialist is really good at their profession they may also be able to trace down WHO planted it, and actually hunt down the LOCATION of the spy.

Of course it should be mentioned that equipment is one means to accomplish the end, not the end itself. An extremely competent TSCM specialist would be more effective with only a flashlight and a screwdriver than a pretender would be with all the equipment in the world. If you give a properly trained and experienced TSCM specialist a proper set of equipment there is virtually nothing the spy can do to hide his eavesdropping activities.

Remember: In TSCM and technical security there are no Magical Black Boxes, no Bug Detectors, no Silver Bullets, and no Unicorns!


General Types of TSCM Measurements and related instruments

Amplitude Domain, This includes instruments used to measure amounts of or variations in voltage, amperage, resistance, capacitance, inductance or other things relative to voltage levels. This type of equipment is primarily Analog and Digital Voltmeters, Amp Meters, neon bulb testers and other basic instruments. This type of equipment is typically used to measure the amplitude (or voltage) of a signal or to perform simple circuit tests. A good example of this is the simple balanced line test, loop voltage test, or AC line tests. Amplitude domain instruments are normally the first type that has to be purchased or mastered by a TSCM specialist.

Time Domain, This type of instrument is used to observe and evaluate how a signal behave over time. The most common Time Domain instruments used in TSCM are Oscilloscopes, and Time Domain Reflectometer. These instruments may also be used to make Amplitude Domain measurements but with reduced accuracy.

Frequency Domain, This type is of equipment is used to find RF energy on the spectrum, and to perform basic measurements of those signals. The purpose is to evaluate the frequency "envelope" used by the signal, and how the signal relates to other signals which also occupy the spectrum on nearby frequencies. The most common type of instrument used to evaluate the frequency domain is a spectrum analyzer, or measuring receiver. While most spectrum analysers do have the capacity to evaluate signal Modulation, Time, and Amplitude Domain they do so with reduced accuracy and sensitivity.

Modulation Domain, These instruments are used to "capture" a signal and to either demodulate a signal and evaluate the modulation or intelligence present on the signal. The most common instrument used as a highly sensitive Search Receiver, intercept receiver, scanner, and modulation circuits.

Space Domain, These instruments allow the TSCM specialist to identify the source or relative direction of an incoming or suspect signal. The most common instruments are Directional Antenna, DF arrays, close field probes, wave guides, and other devices which reveal the path of a signal.

Physical Domain, This includes instruments used to "look inside" or behind things to reveal concealed devices, and to examine items which are thought to be potential hostile (such as a bug installed inside a ashtray). The most common instruments of this type are Non-Linear Junction Detectors, Portable X-Ray equipment, Borescopes, Infrared viewers, Thermal Imaging Systems, and other equipment used to "look inside". Such equipment is used to look inside wall, inspect safes, examine desks, and so on.

Audio Domain, This is typically instruments used to evaluate the audio present in an area, on a conductor (either electrical or physical in nature). This include audio amplifiers, filters, various transducers, and related devices often with frequency response over 100 kHz. These instruments are used to locate things that may conduct an audio signal out of a secure area, and to check the audio integrity on a secure area.

Telephone Domain, These are instruments specific to the analysis of telephone instruments, telephone wiring, PBX systems, transmission systems, multiplexers, switches, and other elements which permit communication between distant locations. This equipment may include telephone analysers, craft sets, butt sets, tone generators, inductive devices, and other instruments used by the telephone industry. While much of this equipment is hybrid versions of other TSCM Instruments they tend to be most useful when combined with other instruments in the same case (such as a sweep generator, FDX analyser, etc...)

Power Domain, Much like Telephone Domain instruments this type of instrument is a hybrid package specifically used to evaluate power lines, breakers, transformers, and related elements.

Digital Domain, These are high sophisticated instruments used to evaluate data signals for hostile activity. This included vector signal analysers, network analysers, cable analysers, packet sniffers, traffic monitors, and instruments that monitor both the traffic and the content of data traffic. This may involve examining various types of conductors for digital signals, or evaluating signals which have been digitally modulated.


Recommended TSCM Test Equipment and Instrumentation


Functional Types of TSCM Equipment
(as defined by the CIA and State Department)

Signal Acquisition
Automated signal acquisition equipment capable of capturing,
manipulating, and processing all threat signals and also be
able to operate as an In-Place Monitoring System (IPMS). A
functional antenna or wave guide package covering the known
threat spectrum is necessary.

Signal Demodulation and Processing
Demodulate known and future digital, analog, and video
modulation schemes.

Signal Analysis
Provide detailed digital and analog waveform signal analysis.

Telecommunications and Telephone Analysis
Capability to analyze digital, analog, and computer supported
telephone systems and instruments.

Component Detection
Be able to detect clandestine surveillance devices within the
structure of the facilities being inspected.

Investigative/Evidence Collection
Capability for evidence collection/preservation (i.e., audio,
video, photographic, etc.) during and after the conduct of the
TSCM inspection.

Field Analysis
Ability for sophisticated analysis of electronic digital circuitry.
Appropriate software for advanced technology analysis, word
processing, and telecommunications.

Ancillary/Support
Provide the capability required for the interconnectability,
interoperability, and flexibility to tailor the equipment package
to complete the mission.

Advanced TSCM Signals Detection and Analysis
TSCM - Sweeping the Spectrum for Eavesdropping Devices

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