Mark Harris
PSSST... WANT ONE OF THESE?, 8 February 2006

James Bond eat your heart out!
Keep yourself up to date with the latest - and craziest - spy technology around, says Mark Harris

The alleged British ‘spy rock’ found by Russian security services recently is only one of an increasingly sophisticated arsenal of surveillance devices available to today’s secret agents. Modern espionage is far more likely to involve digital eavesdropping and computer hacking than sipping Martinis with glamorous Bond girls in a Monte Carlo casino. And although the very latest gadgets remain strictly top secret, it’s never been easier to set up your very own ‘black ops’ with a variety of high tech devices. Note that while buying some of these gizmos is fairly easy, using them covertly will probably break a number of laws.

BTT-800 Universal Telephone Lead Transmitter £225
Want to find out what your boss saying about you? Creep into his office and replace his phone handset cable with this sneaky look-alike. It will broadcast up 6 hours of phone chatter on a special frequency so you can find out if you’re in line for a promotion – or the boot.

CheckMate Infidelity Test Kit £75
If Hilary had used one of these kits, Bill might still be President. Simply apply to any suspicious clothing stains to reveal whether your other half has been up to no good. Guaranteed cheaper than a Senate Inquiry.

Executive Lie Detector £23.95
Suspect someone near you of telling pork pies? There’s no need to get the CIA to fly them to a distant country with relaxed laws on interrogation, just get them talking to this pocket-sized truth detector. It uses voice stress analysis to give an LED readout of their honesty – from green for innocent up to red for compulsive liars.

UMB-400 Umbrella £200
Accidentally ‘forget’ this umbrella at the in-laws and discover whether they really liked their Christmas present, via a powerful radio transmitter hidden in the handle. Also useful for duelling with enemy agents on the top of a train, or for protecting you from a light drizzle.

Hidden Camera Detector £195
If Q had issued our lads in Moscow with one of these, their alleged spy rock would probably be still be safe and sound. Simply peer through a little hole and any hidden video cameras show up like a torch. As seen on TV forensic show CSI.

Personal Tracking System £715
There can’t be anyone who hasn’t occasionally wanted to slap a tiny metal box underneath a car and track its progress on a handheld widget, preferably one that beeps. This compact GPS satellite transmitter that lets you pinpoint your target’s location to within a couple of metres, anywhere in Europe. As long as they’re not indoors, that is.

Fellowes DS-1 Shredder £80
Deter dumpster-diving low-lifes after your correspondance with this steel-bladed cross-cut shredder. It can handle 11 sheets of paper at a time, will munch happily through staples and credit cards, and has unique Safe Sense technology that shuts itself down people or pets stray too close to the blades.

Who’s watching you?

It’s not just national security organisations and large companies who need to worry about security, individuals can also be the target of surveillance. You probably don’t lose much sleep about the 4 million of CCTV cameras across the UK. We’re the most watched nation on Earth, with Londoners likely to be captured on camera 300 times a day. There have been cases of CCTV footage being misused, notably a camera operator in Glamorgan being convicted of over 200 obscenity charges for spying on women.

Slightly more sinister are the official interception activities of the Echelon project. This network of ground and satellite stations, designed by the US but run by a number of English-speaking countries including the UK, eavesdrops on up to 3 billion electronic communications every day. As well as landline and mobile phone calls, Echelon taps e-mails, faxes and text messages, using super-computers to scan each one for key words, phrases and even individual voice-prints.

Most worrying of all is the 30% annual growth in identity fraud. Criminals can use discarded bills or e-mail ‘phishing’ scams to obtain your personal details, then apply for credit cards, buy goods or claim benefits in your name. According to a Cabinet Office study, such crimes cost the economy around £1.3 billion a year, and fraud prevention service CIFAS estimates that the police investigate less than 1% of identity fraud cases.

You can reduce the chance of falling victim to identity fraudsters by shredding personal documents, keeping bank details to yourself online and regularly checking your file with credit reference agencies Experian ( or Equifax (

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