Worried that someone is listening to your calls or secretly filming you? You may not be completely paranoid. Nowadays, it isn’t that difficult to get hold of great quality spy cameras and listening devices, and they’re very easy to hide. There are also plenty of reasons why a person might want to carry out this kind of surveillance. For example, to gather evidence in a legal case relating to business, compensation claims or even divorce cases. Someone may also want to eavesdrop on confidential information being discussed behind closed doors.

This has been reported as having happened to high profile people and companies recently, with even sports organisations such as the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team having to regularly sweep conference rooms for bugs before important meetings. If you want to be 100% sure that your home, office or any other given space is completely free of surveillance bugs and cameras, here’s what you need to do. The following are 10 quick steps to help put your mind at ease that no one is watching or listening:

  • Turn the lights off. A quick way to detect a less sophisticated bug is to switch all of the lights off and then do a visual check around the room. A camera or other device may have a tiny red or white light visible, blinking or static when it is recording. You can also shine a small, direct torch around the room to see if you can catch any reflection from a camera lens shining back at you.
  • Do a manual check of key points in the room. It takes just 5 minutes to visually inspect light fittings, bookshelves and under desks - these are the most obvious places someone would hide them. You can also take more time to check out seemingly innocuous everyday items such as phone chargers, air fresheners and smoke detectors, which may not all be what they seem. Many modern spy cameras and bugs are disguised as household objects, making them very hard to spot. You can check to see if an item is functional – if it isn't’t and there’s no reason why not, it could be a disguise for a camera.

Hacker stealing data off a laptop computer

  • Check your computer for malware. A decent piece of anti-malware software is the best way to pick up any malicious programs or viruses that could be spying on your emails, documents and online activity. Research the options, install a reputable programme and run a deep search on your computer on a regular basis. Also, you should always be very careful when downloading or installing anything new, as well as what links you click when using the internet.
  • De-bug your phone. Keeping your phone free of malware and spy bugs has never been easier. There are now programmes you can run and devices you can use to protect your calls, texts, emails and internet history. It’s important to do this regularly, just the same as de-bugging your laptop or desktop computer.
  • Listen to the phone line. Unless your phone has been tapped in a very sophisticated way, take a second to listen to the phone line (landlines only) in case there are any tell-tale sounds of listening bugs. Are there any unusual noises, like clicking sounds or interference? Make a test call to a friend or to your own answer machine if you need to test it out further.
  • Make a beeline for small, round holes. If there are any dark, round pinholes in a room (such as the fixings used to hang pictures and the screw holes in self-assembly furniture) – inspect these right away. If it can fit a camera lens inside, it's worth checking out.
  • Use an RF bug detector. If you have the money to spend on this specialist piece of kit, this is by far the most effective and quickest way to completely sweep a room for bugs. A detector picks up radio frequencies that are transmitting in the room. If someone is secretly recording or filming, they are likely to use RF signals to monitor or receive the data. Turn off all of your electronic and electrical items and slowly walk around the room with the detector. If there’s anything there, the detector will make a sound – this increases in frequency and/or volume the closer you get to the source of the transmission.
  • Investigate new or disturbing items. If you are very familiar with the space, you'll immediately spot if there is a new object in the room. You can also see if objects have been re-arranged (i.e. the leaves of a plant artfully arranged around a particular spot on a bookshelf) or if there are any tell-tale marks on dusty shelves. By investigating these spots straight away, you're likely to save yourself a lot of time and pick up bugs much quicker.
  • Look for debris. If a bug has been installed into a room, it's likely that something will have been disturbed during the process. Do a quick check for cracked ceiling tiles, damaged floorboards, piles of brick dust or shavings. If someone hasn't had time to clean up, these could be the giveaway signs of secret surveillance.

Businessman spying

  • Check next door. If you have access to the room or rooms surrounding your space, it's always worth a quick check inside. If something is locked or ‘out of order’ when it shouldn't’t be, this could be suspicious. You may also uncover evidence of devices used for listening through walls or signs that someone has installed a bug in your room such as a hole in the wall of a recently accessed vent.

It’s not necessary to do all of these checks on an everyday basis unless you are very concerned about unwanted surveillance, and some steps such as using RF bug detectors may put your mind at ease completely.