Bugging Hotel Rooms

It is sometimes said that "All hotel rooms abroad are bugged for audio and visual surveillance." Of course it is not true that all of them are bugged, but a great many are -- especially in major hotels frequented by foreign business and government travelers. To maintain an adequate level of security awareness while conducting business abroad, you must operate on the assumption that your hotel room conversations are being monitored. If you are an active target who is known to pick up local women, you could also be filmed by a concealed camera.

The goal of surreptitious monitoring may be to learn your business or negotiating strategy, identify your local contacts, assess your vulnerabilities, or obtain evidence that can be used to accuse you of improper activities or to pressure you to cooperate.

It is noteworthy that legal restrictions against technical surveillance that apply in the United States have not been adopted by other countries with which we have close trading ties. The overseas operations of American companies engaged in international commerce are particularly vulnerable.

Most foreign security and intelligence services have various means of screening incoming visitors to identify persons of potential intelligence interest. They also have well-established contacts with the hotels that commonly host conferences and meetings with international participation. For convenience, some even maintain permanent offices within the largest hotels. If the local intelligence service considers you a significant intelligence target, it may arranged for you to be assigned a room that is already prepared for the desired monitoring.

Some luxury hotels offer a baby monitoring service to guests who wish to use the club or guest services, while still minding the toddlers asleep in their hotel room. This service is an integral part of the hospitality features incorporated into the hotel phone system. That means it is possible from a central location to activate the microphone within the telephone set within any room at any time. Consider how this might be used by the local security service. cartoon

Even without such a built-in system, it takes only a minute or two for someone to enter a hotel room and bug the telephone so that all room conversations can be monitored from a line connected to the hotel switchboard.

Related Topics: Security and Safety Recommendations, In the Line of Fire: American Travelers Abroad. For more technical information on vulnerabilities, see Bugs and Other Eavesdropping Devices.





The Chroma Group, Ltd.