But before we get started on our surveillance, we must offer a big disclaimer about this collection of sneaky hardware (and software): Using any of this spy gear may be illegal or unethical, depending on how and where you use it. If you’re unsure, check the laws in your state and consult your conscience. By linking to the Websites hosting additional information about the products mentioned in this article, we do not mean to endorse them.
Tiny cameras that record on the sly can be hidden in all sorts of objects. Here we see (left to right) we seethe Spy Pen Camera ($30), which lets you download 640-by-480 video and audio recorded on the built-in 4GB memory straight onto your computer; the Button Camera ($129), featuring three styles of button covers with matching real buttons for the rest of your jacket or shirt; the Key Ring Spy Camera ($102) with built-in microphone; and the dressy Tie Camera ($252), which can share a power supply with the optional Covert Video Recorder ($389).
Need to scramble a cellular signal and thereby render nearby cellphones’ calling capabilities useless, so your evil-empire nemesis can’t deliver his latest intelligence update to the homeland at the appointed hour? The High Power Portable Jammer (left, $205) isn’t covert, but it can scramble signals at distances of up to 60 feet away. The 3G Mini Cell Jammer (right, $199) promises to scramble cell signals for 3G, UMTS, CDMA, and GSM networks within a range of up to 32 feet.
When you can’t crack the encryption code on some secret plans locked away in a computer file, your only other option is to identify the user’s password and use that to access to the information in unencrypted form. That’s when spies (and paranoid spouses) turn to keyloggers, which record every keystroke that a user enters on a specific computer.
The PS2 Keylogger (upper left, $71) works with older keyboards, while the KeyKatch USB keylogger (right, $130) connects between the keyboard cable and a USB port on newer computers. Ultimate Keylogger software (lower left, starting at $26) can monitor not only keystrokes, but also applications and visited Websites. The Ultimate Keylogger program can also send encrypted activity reports via e-mail.
The PTXTrak Real-Time GPS Tracking Device (left, $470) transmits the location of a car or person every 10 seconds (if driving) or every 20 feet (if walking), while you watch on a Web-based map. The Mini GPS Logger (right, $288) records and stores–on the device itself–the route, stop time, speed, direction, and altitude of a moving object. Subsequently you can retrieve the data and download it to a computer via USB.
PlanOn’s handy document scanners do the job quickly and covertly–assuming that no one considers moving an unopened ballpoint pen rapidly across every line of text on a page to be odd. The DocuPen Xtreme X05 (top, $300) comes with 64MB of internal memory, takes MicroSD cards for expansion, and can perform Bluetooth transfers as well. The DocuPen RC810 (bottom, $170) has 8MB of memory and takes about 4 to 8 seconds to scan a full page of text.
When it’s so easy to bug someone it’s hard not to be paranoid your bugged yourself. In the spy vs. spy world of gadgets and countergadgets, there are some easy ways to avoid being bugged. The PE-AJ1 Audio Jammer electronic noise generator (left, $169) can knock out any wired or wireless microphone within an area of 150 square feet (note, however, that a protected area of 150 square feet works out to a protected radius of only about 7 feet, according to the ancient spy formula A = πr2). The KB-DD800 Multifunctional Portable Sweep Unit (right, $495) purportedly can detect bugs and cameras hidden in the room, as well as GPS trackers and wire telephone tapping.
If you’re after some night vision gear for your mission, you can choose between monoculars and binoculars. The Night Own 3×50 monocular (upper left, $450) is suitable for camping, boating or wildlife observation, as well as for espionage, while the Patrol 2X24 monocular (right, $360) is a sound entry-level model that you can attach to a tripod. If you want to go pro, consider the Ranger Digital Night Vision 5×42 binoculars (lower left, $760), with 5X magnification, a built-in LCD screen, and a rubberized body.
It looks like a prop from a Batman movie, but The Bat (left, not available in stores) is a functioning drone that carries microphones, shoots photos and video, and comes equipped with sensors for detecting poisonous gases and radiation. Only 6 inches wide, it cost $10 million to develop at the University of Michigan. More down to earth (but still up in the air) is the Spy Kite (right, $46), which lets you snap photos from heights of up to 80 feet and download them to your PC via USB.
Phones No Longer Safe
If your mission is to spy on someone who uses a BlackBerry or an Android phone, a service called MobiStealth (left, $80 for three months) promises to enable you to monitor their location, listen to phone calls via a Web interface, and check the user’s text messages and Web history. Mobile Spy claims that its iPhone Spy software (right, $50 for three months) works in a similar manner with iPhones–but only if they’ve been jailbroken.
Finally, all self-respecting spies need a safe way to transfer to the home office all the data they’ve acquired during a hard day of skulking around. These hollow spy coins from Dereu & Sons have been uses since the Cold War by spies to transport secret messages or suicide poisons. Now you can use them to carry a MicroSD card. Available coins include U.S. nickels (left, $30 each) and half-dollars (a significantly better deal at $25 each), British pounds (right, $33 each), and EU euros ($30 each).