Wireless spy cameras. Eavesdropping bugs. GPS tracking gadgets. All of these things may have once seemed far-fetched, the stuff of movies, but now they not only exist, but they're also becoming more sophisticated.
Don't believe me? Do a Web search for "spy gear" or "spy gadgets." You'll be amazed at what you find.
Surveillance gadgets are the latest worry for executives and celebrities. Paparazzi have placed them in celebrities' hotel rooms and private planes. The gadgets are also used for corporate espionage. So, many are employing security services to safeguard their privacy.
Audio bugs run from simple to advanced. An inexpensive baby monitor can be used to record conversations. More sophisticated gadgets can be hidden in walls or everyday objects.
You'll find pens that contain audio recorders. Power strips, calculators, watches and other items also can conceal audio bugs. Other audio bugs, of course, can be connected to telephones.
There's even a cellphone that can be activated by a special code and used as a listening device. The phone doesn't ring or give notice that a call has been received. The spy eavesdrops on the phone's location. Cellular conversations can also be heard.
Other eavesdropping gadgets can penetrate walls. And the audio can be recorded.
Surveillance cameras also range from simple to elaborate. For example, nanny cams can be used to spy. These often resemble a stuffed animal.
Of course, a stuffed animal may raise suspicion. But what about a camera hidden in a fake smoke detector? Some are angled to give a view of an entire room.
Other cameras are the size of a dime and can be mounted discreetly in any number of places. Some manufacturers have modified common products to include hidden cameras. You can buy an iPod dock with a built-in camera. Some watches and belt buckles hide cameras. Often, these gadgets include a built-in DVR.
GPS tracking is also a reality. Some businesses place GPS devices in company vehicles to track employees. But these devices can also be used for nefarious purposes. A GPS tracking gadget the size of a matchbook costs about $300 and is easily attached to a vehicle. A microphone can be included. The GPS data is transmitted via cellular service.
GPS loggers can also be installed in a car. GPS data isn't transmitted in real time. Rather, the spy can retrieve the unit and review the location logs.
Of course, there are more familiar spying techniques. Key logging software can be installed on computers to monitor usage.
Hardware key loggers can also be attached to machines. These may resemble adapters for computer keyboards.
Wi-Fi users often fail to use encryption or use the old WEP encryption method, which is easily broken, allowing data from the wireless network to be intercepted.
If all of this makes you uneasy, there are solutions. Executives and celebrities frequently hire companies to sweep offices, homes, hotel rooms and the like.
Recently, these services have seen a dramatic increase in customers. And often, spy gadgets are discovered.
Of course, these services come at a premium. Companies charge thousands of dollars for them.
Most of us won't face this kind of espionage. However, a jealous ex could use spy gadgets to stalk and spy on you.
Fortunately, there are less costly countermeasures. Inexpensive gadgets can detect radio signals given off by hidden cameras and recorders. Jammers can block GPS and cell-phone signals.
As for computer surveillance, be wary of public wireless Internet hot spots. Make sure your security software is current. Look for suspicious computer attachments. And use encryption software to make intercepted messages unreadable.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about computers and the Internet. To get the podcast or find the station nearest you, visit: www.komando.com/listen. To subscribe to Kim's free e-mail newsletters, sign up at: www.komando.com/newsletters. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.