| Is anyone else listening'
New Delhi, Jan. 9: The “phone-tapping” problems of Amar Singh may be closer home than you thought.
Anyone, from a business rival to a jealous lover, could be using this 80-year-old method to become privy to the words you intended to share only with your most trusted friends or relatives.
Tapping phones today is easier than ever before, according to telecom experts.
“While phone-tapping techniques are constantly being improved upon, both by law enforcement agencies and private companies, there is no software that can prevent your phone from being tapped,” said cyber law expert Pawan Duggal.
All that the eavesdropper needs is an easily built bug ' made of components available at any electronics shop ' and a receiver like the one on your landline phone.
“The bug can be made by anyone, even students of electronics. The local electrician can easily make a bug,” said Tom Harris, editor of UK-based popular science journal How Things Work.
So, when should you start suspecting that your phone is being tapped'
The “tapper’s” breathing, say the experts, may be the only giveaway.
“Background noise from where the spy is listening, and his breath are what can give him away to the victim,” said Duggal.
The spy, however, can eliminate this problem simply by not having a microphone in his transmitter 'the device on the phone that we speak into.
“This would make it impossible to determine for sure whether the phone is being tapped. Law enforcement agencies around the world follow this method to ensure that suspects don’t realise that they’re being watched,” said telecom expert Mahesh Uppal.
If a cellphone is the target, the spy could use one of two options. The spy’s job is easier if he has contacts in the office of the telecom provider.
“The telecom provider would have the transcripts of all phone calls made or received,” explained Duggal.
Even without such contacts, all that an efficient spy needs is access to the cellphone for five minutes.
“The spy would need to bug the phone, which is a simple procedure for an experienced person,” said Harris.
The advent of cellphones, the experts say, has made tapping a lot easier than before. The cellphone signals travel as “digital packets” that are very easily intercepted.
“The spy needs to have a radio, which he tunes in to the normal frequency of human voice signals,” explained Duggal.
In such a scenario, the only problem the spy would face is the possibility of a lot of travelling.
“The spy would have to follow his victim around. He would have to keep within a certain distance of the cellphone being tapped,” explained Harris.
If the phone, as in the case of Amar, happens to be a landline, the bug would have to be planted either in the handset or anywhere else on the telephone wires leading out from the phone. For the latter, a linesman would have to be involved.
“It is a well-known secret that by bribing linesmen, detective agencies regularly tap people’s phones,” said Duggal.
Listening in on a conversation is, therefore, as easy for the spy as for family members accidentally listening to each other’s conversations by picking up the receiver of an extension line in the house.