Countersurveillance refers to measures undertaken to prevent surveillance, including covert surveillance. Countersurveillance may include electronic methods such as bug sweeping, the process of detecting surveillance devices, including covert listening devices, visual surveillance devices as well as Countersurveillance software to thwart unwanted attempts by cyber crooks to access computing and mobile devices for various nefarious reasons (e.g. theft of financial, personal or corporate data). More often than not, countersurveillance will employ a set of actions (countermeasures) that, when followed, reduce the risk of surveillance. Countersurveillance should not be confused with sousveillance (inverse surveillance) as the latter does not necessarily aim to prevent or reduce surveillance.

Types of Countersurveillance[]

Electronic countermeasures[]

For main article, see Technical surveillance counter-measures

Most bugs emit some form of electromagnetic radiation, usually radio waves. The standard counter-measure for bugs is therefore to "sweep" for them with a receiver, looking for the radio emissions. Professional sweeping devices are very expensive. Low-tech sweeping devices are available through amateur electrical magazines, or they may be built from circuit designs on the Internet.

Sweeping is not foolproof. Advanced bugs can be remotely operated to switch on and off, and some even rapidly switch frequencies according to a predetermined pattern in order to make location with sweepers more difficult. A bug that has run out of power may not show up during a sweep, which means that the sweeper will not be alerted to the surveillance. Also some devices have no active parts, an example is the Great Seal given to the US Ambassador to Moscow which hid a device (the Thing).

Software countermeasures[]

Amidst concerns over privacy, software countermeasures[1] have emerged to prevent cyber-intrusion, the un-authorized act of spying, snooping, and stealing personally identifiable information or other proprietary assets (e.g. images) through cyberspace.

Popular interest in Countersurveillance and has been growing given media coverage of privacy violations:[2][3]

Human countermeasures[]

For main article, see Counterintelligence

Most surveillance, and most counter-surveillance, involves human rather than electronic methods since people are generally more vulnerable and more capable of reacting creatively to surveillance situations.

Human countermeasures include:

Such activities make it harder to track surveillance subjects. Following steady, easy-to-predict schedules before employing aforementioned countermeasures may make the surveillance detail complacent and thus easier to lose.

Countersurveillance by countries[]

See List of counterintelligence organizations

In the United States military[]

The United States military refers to electronic countersurveillance as "technical surveillance counter-measures" (TSCM) and relates it to signal intelligence and electronic countermeasures.

The United States Department of Defense defines a TSCM survey ("bug sweeping") as a service provided by qualified personnel to detect the presence of technical surveillance devices and hazards and to identify technical security weaknesses that could aid in the conduct of a technical penetration of the surveyed facility. A TSCM survey provides a professional evaluation of the facility's technical security posture and normally consists of a thorough visual, electronic, and physical examination in and about the surveyed facility.

This definition is however lacking some of the technical scope involved. Communications security, information technology security and physical security are also a major part of the work in the modern environment. The advent of multimedia devices and remote control technologies allow huge scope for removal of massive amounts of data in very secure environments by the staff employed within, with or without their knowledge.

In Canada[]

In 2011, Defence Minister Peter MacKay authorized a program to search telephone and internet usage for suspicious activities.[7] This program searches for and collects meta-data of Canadians across the country.[8]

Canadian Movements[]

There are minimal anti-surveillance movements specifically targeted in Canada at present.

Transparent Lives is a prominent Canadian organization that aims to "demonstrate dramatically just how visible we have all become to myriad organizations and what this means—for better or for worse—for how we conduct our everyday lives." [9]

International movements currently active In Canada[]

Amnesty International runs a campaign called #UnfollowMe that "calls on governments to ban mass surveillance and unlawful intelligence sharing", inspired by Edward Snowden leaking thousands of NSA documents that revealed information about mass surveillance in the U.S. This campaign is active worldwide.

See also[]


  1. ^ International Association of Privacy Professionals. "The Family of Technologies That Could Change The Privacy Dynamic", presented by Daniel Wietzner, Director MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, uploaded July 16, 2013
  2. ^ Roose, Kevin. "The Surveillance Free Day", New York Magazine, July 29, 2013.
  3. ^ The Wall Street Journal. "Information Security Expert to Host Seminar on Counter Surveillance" July 10, 2013
  4. ^ Barton Gellman (December 24, 2013). "Edward Snowden, after months of NSA revelations, says his mission's accomplished". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 25, 2013. Taken together, the revelations have brought to light a global surveillance system... 
  5. ^ New York Daily News. "New Miss Teen USA claims she was the victim of an online extortion plot", August 14, 2013.
  6. ^ ABC-News Boston (WCVB-TV). "Baby monitor hacked in toddler's room" Aug 14, 2013
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Confirmed: Canada Has NSA-Style Surveillance Program". 
  9. ^ "Welcome | Transparent Lives". Retrieved 2015-11-26. 

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