TSCM Procurement Advice

Services & Procurement Advice

If you are considering procuring a TSCM Inspection the following questions and answers should be of some assistance to you.

If you would like further advice please contact the TSCMi, one of our leadership team will then contact you back and be happy to have a call with you and answer any further questions you may have.

Technical Surveillance Counter Measures, often called counter-eavesdropping or bug-sweeping, is the combination of people, process and equipment designed to detect and respond to attempts to undertake technical surveillance. Technical surveillance may employ hidden microphones, miniature radio transmitters, concealed cameras or vehicle tracking devices to glean information relating to sensitive activities or conversations such as those relating to Mergers and Acquisition, or other commercial discussions, private matters relating to celebrities and other high profile individuals or may be a component of industrial or economic espionage.

Whilst business and security risk managers might be familiar and experienced in the protection of physical assets, information assets differ in that they can be stolen and their loss not even noticed without the kind of audit which a TSCM inspection can provide. UK Government research indicates that some £27Bn is lost through theft of information by acts of industrial and economic espionage and these are only the thefts we know about.

Technical surveillance threats can be generalised as being wired, eg a microphone connected to a listening post within a building, wireless, eg a miniature transmitter or ‘bug’, or recorded such as a Dictaphone left in a sensitive area for later retrieval. Technical surveillance sensors can be microphones the size of a match head, video cameras whose lenses can see through a hole the diameter of a pin or GPS logging devices accurate to metres and able to store months of journey records.

A TSCM inspection will generally involve a team of specialists assessing the electromagnetic spectrum, including radio and infra red, for indications of local transmissions. This would be backed up by a thorough technical and physical inspection of power and data/telephone cabling in addition to a detailed physical inspection of the target area’s walls, ceiling, floor and furnishings. An average executive office would take a couple of hours which would be doubled for a conference room or similar. Anomalies are then investigated and the Client’s direction in terms of response followed-through where that response may be to leave in situ, so that the Client’s own security personnel can undertake surveillance of the device, remove, usually adhering to forensic practices, or report the matter to law enforcement such as would be required for Public Sector bodies.

TSCM practitioners occupy a spectrum of experience and skill sets but, as with all areas of the security industry, there are unscrupulous companies who tout capabilities and skills beyond that which they genuinely have. As there is no formal qualification to undertake TSCM (though this is being addressed by the industry through the development of National Occupational Standards), prospective Clients must assure themselves that a TSCM team can indeed offer the required services either through questioning of the TSCM provider or relying on a trade body such as TSCMi, to validate capabilities in advance. Key to employing any TSCM inspectors though is the need to discuss concerns over communications means which are known to be safe and not from within the target area itself.

TSCM inspection teams will deploy a wide range of technical test and physical search equipment suited to the anticipated threats including equipment able to detect electromagnetic emissions, such as radio transmitters, test equipment able to analyse telecoms and power cabling for eavesdropping and hand tools, ladders, lighting, etc to assist in detailed physical inspections of the target area. A typical suite of TSCM equipment would fill the back of a small van and require 2 or 3 inspectors to move the equipment into the target area.

Costs for TSCM inspections vary according to the threat environment, location of target area, size of areas to be inspected and the technical complexity of the areas to be inspected in terms of both clutter and power/telecoms services’ cabling. Each reputable TSCM company will set out its pricing accordingly.

The TSCM Institute, TSCMi, is currently the only TSCM practitioners’ trade body in existence and has as its members the majority of reputable TSCM practitioners within the UK and boasts membership from as far and wide as the EU and Australia with growing interest worldwide. TSCMi awards Full membership only to practitioners who satisfy technical, operational and ethical criteria indicative of the kind of peer validation common in other such professional bodies.

All TSCMi members have committed to adhere to the TSCMi Code of Practice.