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Warning Signs of Covert Eavesdropping or Bugging 23/10/2008

If several of these warning signs apply to you then it would be a very good idea to immediately contact VAN STADEN & ASSOCIATES cc and schedule an inspection, as you may be the target of covert eavesdropping or bugging activities.

When contacting please remember not to call from any suspect area or to use any suspect telephone.

  1. Others know your confidential business or professional trade secrets.
  1. Secret meetings and bids seem to be less than secret.
  1. People seem to know your activities when they shouldn't.
  1. You have noticed strange sounds or volume changes on your phone lines.
  1. You have noticed static, popping, or scratching on your phone lines.
  1. You can hear sounds coming from your phones handset when it's hung up.
  1. Your radio has suddenly develops strange interference.
  1. Your television or radio has suddenly developed strange interference.
  1. You have been the victim of a burglary, but nothing was taken.
  1. Electrical wall plates appear to have been moved slightly or "jarred".
  1. A small-sized discoloration has suddenly appeared on the wall.
  1. One of your vendors just gave you any type of electronic device such as a desk radio, alarm clock, lamp small TV, boom box, CD player, and so on.
  1. The Smoke Detector, Clock, Lamp, or Exit Sign in your office or home looks slightly crooked, has a small hole in the surface, or has a quasi reflective surface".
  1. Certain types of items have "just appeared" in your office of home, but nobody seems to know how they got there.
  1. White dry-wall dust or debris is noticed on the floor next to the wall.
  1. Small pieces of ceiling tiles, or “grit” are noticed on the floor, or on the surface area of your desk.
  1. You notice that "TELKOM" trucks and utilities workers are spending a lot of time near your home or office doing repair work.
  1. Telephone, cable, plumbing, or air conditioning repair people show up to do work when no one called them.
  1. Your door locks suddenly don't "feel right", they suddenly start to get "sticky", or they completely fail.
  1. Furniture has been moved slightly, and no one knows why.
  1. Things "seem" to have been rummaged through, but nothing is missing (at least that you noticed).

Qualification to lie for 22/09/2002

Falsification of qualifications to get a good job is on the increase

Report Tania Broughton and Johan Schronen

ARMED with “the gift of the gab”, false CVs and, in some cases, fake degrees and diplomas, these people are taking South African businesses for a ride. And yet there are still too few companies who do pre-employment background checks.

The facts are scary:

Amanzimtoti-based private investigator Mr Ray van Staden says, in his experience, two in five CVs he is given to check for his “blue Chip” clients, have false information.

A national company, MIE Resource Services, which specialises in rooting out the lies on CVs, puts the figure at one in five. But whatever the actual figure, both say it’s a crime on the increase.

Van Staden said sometimes people just lied on their CVs, others produced falsified degrees and diplomas and others “lied by omission”, leaving gaps in their particulars to hide shady information, such as jail time.

“Recently I was asked to check out the credentials, as a formality, of an American guy who had applied for a job of a chief executive officer of a large, Johannesburg-based company. When I looked at his qualifications, I realised he must have gone to university aged 12. I contacted all the institutions he named, and all came back with a negative.

“When asked to produce his certificates, he said they were in boxes, but he finally confessed, saying he had just done night classes-which also proved ultimately to be a lie. And this guy was apparently doing a good job at his current place of work.”

In another recent case, Van Staden found out that a South African, who claimed to have studied in France, had also lied. “They didn’t even offer that course at that university.”

MIE Resource’s Ina van der Merwe said her researchers had discovered a rising number of “bogus and backyard” colleges and universities in cyberspace.

“These crooks are professional and provide a back-up telephone verification for their clients who have spent a year or two at university and know how to ‘talk the talk”, using jargon picked up during early studies to impress prospective employees, are often the culprits.”

And who wouldn’t be impressed with names like Denver State University, New York City University, Danforth State University – certificates that are extremely easy to confuse with the real thing. This is why Van Staden urges businesses to screen every potential employee carefully.

“You need to verify everything that people say. It costs a couple of hundred Rand, but that is nothing compared to the thousands you will pay to get rid of them once you have employed them and realise they can’t do the job,” he says.

Van Staden said while these people could obviously be charged with fraud, he had yet to hear of any company taking this action. But University of Cape Town registrar Jim McNamara said he had criminally charged six people who produced fake UCT degree certificates in recent years.

The University of Natal’s Director of Student Academic Affairs, Vic Winterbach, said the university was in the process of outsourcing its qualification verifications to MIE Resource Services.

“This decision was sparked by an audit by the Department of Education of teachers’ qualifications. We were literally swamped with verification requests and it would have meant setting up a whole new department to deal with it,” he said.

“Regrettably we have found some false diplomas and inflated academic records in the teaching fraternity and the business world – probably about seven in the last year.

“One of our main problems is a fake or falsified matric certificate, which we have to probe through the matriculation board.”

University of Stellenbosch spokesman Hans-Peter Bakker said his university received up to 10 queries daily from people wanting to verify diplomas and degree certificates.

This year, they had discovered about 15 fake certificates, he said.

Snooping on rivals is now big business 21/11/2001

The secret world of bugging and counter surveillance is, by its very nature, generally kept under wraps. But now, in the wake of DP bugging controversy, a top-debugging expert has lifted the veil of secrecy on the fascinating world of electronic espionage. Barbara Cole reports

Bugging – and debugging is big business and anyone who has competitors or makes a profit is at risk.

And while the secret of the bedroom are just as vulnerable to undercover snoops as those of the boardroom, it is businesses in commercial and industrial premises that are victims of the boom; whose trade secrets and sensitive negotiations are being covertly relayed to eavesdropping enemies.

"There are people who specialise in industrial espionage who make a living out of bugging," said Raymond van Staden of Durban, a top counter-surveillance expert who has just returned from overseas with the latest state-of-art debugging technology.

With bugging devises getting more and more sophisticated and devious – digital, microwave and with colour visuals as well as sound – the counter measures have to be just as clever and advanced.

"Otherwise, you will just get left behind," he said.


Van Staden's clients are blue-chip companies – including commercial and banking institution – many of which he "sweeps" for listening devices once a week. He is also called in before major meetings and important, sensitive negotiations.

He said there has been a big increase in bugging in the last five years, and a boom this year.

Criminals would be just as interested in gaining behind –the –scenes information from his banking clients as competitions, he said.

The boom began after the 1994 elections, when many former police, intelligence and military people started offering bugging, surveillance services and equipment. The collapse of the Berlin Wall also opened the industry to East Europeans.

Van Staden said the high-risk groups he talked to were shocked at how widespread and sophisticated the undercover world of electronic bugging has become. He has to show them his demonstration bugs, some the size of a pinhead, during his presentations for them to realise the potential dangers of the undercover listening devices.

Bugsters, acting on behalf of their clients, get into business premises using a number of guises. Perhaps it is as a telephone technician, maintenance staff or visitor...

Their bugs, which can transmit up to two kilometres away, are placed in a myriad of places.

Surprisingly, the "James Bond" tricks of placing a bug in a table lamp is still used, as well as other traditional places: Telephone, intercoms, modems, wall sockets and not-so-obvious locations like roofs.

They are not all placed in offices either.


Van Staden told of a generous South African businessman who gave his staff and competitors telephone for Christmas. Unbeknown to them, they all contained an extra surprise: Hidden bugs.

Listening devices can also be built into cell phones and activated from any location.

A cell phone might be turned off in a boardroom – with the screen going blank – but all it takes is a single (silent) call from outside to activate the bug to have someone listen in.

A new piece of equipment – a sensor pen - -can check in advance if a cell phone has a hidden bug.

Van Staden said it was even possible for some of the "Fly-by-night" debugging agents to offer to do a sweep for a company, saying they had information about bugs in a building.

They might then plant a bug themselves and then sell whatever information they glean to a rival.

He and the other experts in the industry are calling for legislation, making it compulsory for all debugging agents to be registered or licensed. Many charged fat fees for doing nothing, he said.

"We need regulations to protect us and our clients," he said.

Van Staden and his team of "sweepers" check every nook and cranny when called in to debug a room.

They use probes that look like metal detectors, other that magnify the smallest of places, use ultra violent detectors and even mirrors.

They also seal areas to check if they have been tampered with since their last sweep.


Van Staden's latest state-of-art gadget is a British-made Scanlock, used by many government agencies around the world. It is said to be the "ultimate piece of counter-surveillance gear."

One of the first to be used in the private sector in the country, it picks up signals in a fraction of a second, and can identify their frequency.

The information is downloaded into a databank and then printed in 3D on a laptop.

"The equipment is an aid. We still have to do physical checks ourselves."

Bugging can be done legally if a court order is obtained and there is a threat to the state, or there is a suspicion of illegal activity taking place. The penalties for illegal bugging are a fine or imprisonment for up to two years.


But how do you know you are being bugged? Van Staden gives the main warning signs.

Other people know your confidential business or professional trade secrets; secret meetings and bids seem to be less than secret; people seen to know your activities when they shouldn't; you notice strange sounds or volume changes on your phone lines.

You notice static, popping or scratching on your phone lines; you can hear sounds coming from your phone when the handset is hung up; your phone often rings and nobody is there.

These are just some of the give-aways.

Apartheid Era Tapping Resources up for Sale to the Highest Bidder 09/09/2001

South African Private Investigator Raymond Van Staden behind a Scanlock Select Plus

By Paul Kirk

Paul Kirk delves into the telephone-tapping underworld to report on three high profile bugging scandals recently uncovered by the South African press.

The three high profile bugging scandals, which recently hit the press in South Africa, bring into sharp focus just how vulnerable businessmen may be when operating in the country. First, the Chairman of the parastatal Umgeni Water, one of Africa’s largest water suppliers, was implicated in illegally tapping the telephones of trade unionists. He was nailed when the South African press obtained a letter from Umgeni Water’s lawyer to Cromet Molepo, the chairman of the institution, confirming payment to a telephone tapper for the illegal bugging of telephone lines. The boards’ lawyer, Robinson Manzi, has made no attempt to hide the fact that Molepo used his accounts, which under South African Law are privileged and could not be used as evidence by police, to pay the telephone tapper. By doing so Molepo effectively launderd the payments for an illegal service.

When INTERSEC phoned Manzi for comment he said: “I have withdrawn as Umgeni’s legal representative. And if Umgeni Water is not prosecuted for this matter I will be very surprised. At the time I made the payment to the person concerned I was not aware of what I was paying for and why Molepo asked me to pay through my trust account. When I realized what services I had paid for I wrote a letter, warning Umgeni of the serious consequences, and withdrew soon after”. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has appointed a commission of inquiry into the incident, but – at the time of going to press – the commission has yet to begin its investigation.

Hardly had the commission been set up when the owner of a branch of a nationwide franchise was arrested and charged with allegedly bugging the telephones of a Greek shipping company. He, court records show, has a previous conviction for telephone bugging. He appeared in court and was released on bail. His trial has yet to begin.

Shortly after this appeared, and in the most high profile of all three recent cases, the governor of the South Afrian Reserve Bank admitted that the South Africa National Intelligence Agency had discovered bugs inside his institution. Speaking to the respected journal The Financial Mail in June 2001, Tito Mboweni, the Governor of the Reserve Bank broke the news that a number of illegal monitoring devices had been found in the meeting rooms of the institution. Investigations into who planted the devices are continuing. Information gleaned from them could have been invaluable to currency speculators and so the number of potential suspects is very wide.

Telephone bugging in South Africa is on the increase according to Durban Security expert Raymond Van Staden, himself a trained electro-mechanician with 20 years experience. Due to massive retrenchments in the public service after the end of Apartheid many experienced police and intelligence operatives have used their skills to enter the private sector. Adding to their number are scores of Telkom technicians who, now retired, offer their (often illegal) services on the open market. The once feared telephone tapping resources of the Apartheid era are up for sale to the highest bidder. And, any foreigners doing business in the Republic are very vulnerable. The Apartheid era government trained some of the best eavesdroppers in the world – and sent them to operate as far afield as Europe and every corner of Africa.

Van Staden for one is adamant he will not bug a telephone illegally. He makes his bread and butter out of debugging offices, any many of his former colleagues keep him in business by planting “bugs”. Debugging is very capital intensive, the tools of this trade cost a lot of money. Bugging on the other hand costs very little. A few thousand Rand – or a couple of hundred Dollars – and a bugger is fully equipped and ready to go. Competition among buggers is, as a result, cutthroat. The basic tool kit used by debugger on the other hand costs around US$70,000.The actual devices that are used to bug telephones and rooms are almost limitless.

Telephones can be modified so to act as microphones, allowing a listener to hear conversations occurring within six metres or so of the devices. Tiny transmitters can be wired onto telephone line and bugs can also be hidden in wall plugs, phones, televisions and a host of other devices. “Probe” microphone can be inserted into holes drilled in walls while “contact” microphones act like enormously powerful stethoscopes, allowing the bugger to hear conversations through walls and thick doors. Bugs can even be wired into the mains wiring of a room to transmit signals down mains electricity lines.

According to the South African Council of Investigators Head, Andy Grudko, there are probably only around six qualified, competent and properly equipped operators in the private sector who can provide specialist Technical Surveillance Counter Measures Investigations – or “debugging services”. Private detectives in South Africa are at present unregulated by government. Anyone can set up shop as a “Private Eye” and many offer their bugging services in telephone directories. South Africa may be one of the few countries in the world where a person is more likely to be bugged by the private rather than the public sector. In the United States the possession, sale and manufacture of bugging equipment is banned. In most other countries it is heavily regulated.

Telephones can legally be tapped in South Africa only if the police, the National Intelligence Agency, the Secret Service or the Defense Force are probing a “serious offence”. In addition to this, these agencies have to receive permission from a specially designated High Court judge who must satisfy himself that the bugging order is justified in terms of very strict legal guidelines. For the purposes of bugging, the definition of a “serious offence” – the SA Law Commission points out – does not even include a once-off murder, rape or armed robbery. According to the act a “serious offence” has to fall under the ambit of Schedule 1 of the Criminal Procedures Act. This encompasses murder, rape, armed robbery, high treason and a few other offences.

In addition to falling under Schedule 1 of the Act, the crime needs to have a few other qualifying characteristics before the suspects can be bugged legally. The crime needs to have been:

· Committed over a lengthy period of time, or

· Committed in an organized manner, or

· Committed by the same person on a regular basis, or

· The offence has to allegedly harm the economy of the country

The only exceptions to these rules are offences committed under the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act.

Despite these constraints on legal bugging the South African Law Commission points out that an alarming number of Private Detectives advertise telephone bugging services even when they obviously do not have the legal authority to bug a telephone. Asked in a written letter how many warrants the South African Department of Justice authorizes in a given year, the department did not respond, despite being given three weeks to answer and having acknowledged receipt of the letter.

A search of court records in Durban and Pietermaritzburg show that the state have engaged in illegal telephone tapping from time to time – most dramatically during the trial of Sifiso Nkabinde – a Natal politician accused of dozens of murders. The prosecution failed when it was revealed that police had tapped conversations between Nkabinde and his lawyers. When this information emerged, High Court Judge Jan Combrink threw the case out of court and Nkabinde walked free. Police had obtained a warrant allowing them to tape all Nkabinde’s conversations – except those conducted with his legal team. Somewhat fancifully the police argued that they had only listened to these conversations and not taped them, and had thus acted within the law.

Nkabinde testified that he had suspicions that these protected conversations were taped and deliberately spoke about an arms cache at his home. The following day police raided his Richmond house, thus proving the existence of the illegal monitoring. Combrink emphasized that a guilty verdict could never be returned in South Africa if the trial was not a fair one. Police had obtained full details of Nkabinde’s defence and destroyed his chances of a fair trial.

One of the earliest telephone tapping scandals to hit the press occurred as early as 1916 in New York City. In that year the New York Times reported that police had merrily tapped huge numbers of telephones – often for no real purpose other than their own amusement. In those early days telephones were a relatively new device and little thought had been given to their use in detecting crime. In 1928 Roy Olmstead was convicted of running a US$2m moonshine business, largely due to evidence obtained from telephone taps that were conducted without any form of judicial approval. Olmstead’s subsequent appeal to the US Supreme Court, arguing his privacy had been invaded, failed. All but one justice claimed that, as a conversation is an intangible, it cannot be protected. Somewhat of a visionary, one history of organized crime recounts how Judge Louis Brandies dissented saying: ”Whenever a telephone is tapped, the privacy of the persons at both ends of the lines is invaded. As a meansof espionage, writs of assistance and general warrants are but puny instruments of tyranny and oppression when compared to wiretapping”.

Since then, most countries have enacted anti-bugging laws. Today, American Police need the approval of a judge to tap a telephone. And to do that they need to be able to persuade the judge that they have “probable cause” to believe a crime is being committed. But despite the existence of legislation, pretty much every country has, at one time or another, bugged telephones illegally – even the often self-righteous Australians. The Australian Government – run Australian Institute of Criminology recently put out a fascinating document entitled: “Wayward Governance: Illegality and its Control in the Public Sector”. The document deals largely with the findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Alleged Telephone Interceptions, Report Number One by Justice David Stewart.

The report details how the Commissioner of the New South Wales Police, Sir Norman Allan CMG, had introduced completely illegal telephone taps into Australia. Allan, the report states, presided over a bugging campaign that would have put the South African Apartheid era Security Branch to shame. He had his police buy up surplus Australian Telecom vans, had fake Telecom uniforms made up and even had Telecom tool bags copied. He then sent his police out to tap the telephones of suspected criminals, their lawyers and even suspicious policemen.

Raymond Van Staden, the South African electro-mechanician with 20 years experience in the field, is adamant that while other states may have the occasional telephone tapping scandal, the incidence in South Africa is on the increase – dramatically so. Using highly sophisticated equipment Van Staden says he now sometimes finds as many bugs in one month as he used to find in a whole year.

The two main pieces of equipment used by Van Staden - and most government agencies – are the Locator Pro and the Scanlock Select Plus, both imported from the United Kingdom. However, the price of the equipment, once import duty is added, puts it out of the reach of most South African companies.

Looking just like a metal detector, the Locator Pro picks up the presence of any electronic items with diodes in them – regardless of whether they are switched on or not. Tape recorders, microphones and almost anything electronic will be detected by this device, while the Scanlock Select Plus is used to pick up any radio transmissions in a room. Because radio transmitters can be so small, small enough to be hidden in keyholes, van Staden has to have a large array of tools to look into the tiniest nook and crannies. And, although being very small, these transmitters can broadcast for up to 10km, sending one’s private conversation out on the airwaves for an eavesdropper to hear.

Van Staden warns: “Information is worth money. The theft of information – especially in South Africa at the moment is a big growth area. Businessmen, and anyone who has information that someone else wants, should be very careful in South Africa”.

Paul Kirk is a photojournalist and investigative reporter based in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa for the Mail & Guardian newspaper.

From a feature in INTERSEC

The Journal of International Security.

Vol 11 Issue 9 September 2001

Quit Bugging Me, Mate 27/07/2001

By Paul Kirk

Four high-profile bugging scandals recently made news. Now a professional debugger says telephone monitoring is on the increase.

With some relief I recently learned my telephone lines were free of bugs and eavesdroppers. The check did not take long. A private detective offered to demonstrate his equipment and within about 30 minutes established that nobody was listening in to my mostly very boring conversations.

These days buggers don't hide microphones inside telephones. They can be hidden almost anywhere along the telephone line. Serious buggers don't need to gain access to your home to tap your telephone.

A top Durban private investigator said he would have been amazed if a bug had been found on my line.

"People tend to think they are more important than they really are. Never forget that tapping a person's phone properly costs a small fortune.

"For a tap to be worth anything it must be monitored 24 hours a day. That usually means three people working eight-hour shifts. If something explosive, something important, is said over the telephone then someone may need to be alerted straight away," he said.

Not that cost puts a bugger off. Another private investigator said most buggers simply left tape recorders running on telephone lines. He said modern bugs are voice activated, alerting the bugger as soon as a conversation begins.

Four high-profile bugging scandals have recently hit the press:

  • Umgeni Water boss Cromet Molepo was implicated in illegally tapping the telephones of trade unionists.
  • censored, the owner of the shop in Durban, was arrested and charged with allegedly bugging a telephone. censored, court records show, has a previous conviction for telephone bugging.
  • Governor of the South African Reserve Bank Tito Mboweni admitted that the National Intelligence Agency had discovered bugs inside its headquarters. The agency was called in after an important bank directive was leaked to a London financial institution.
  • Last week the Human Rights Commission summonsed Northern Cape Premier Manne Dipico to answer allegations that he invaded an employee's privacy by monitoring telephone calls.

Telephone bugging is increasing, says Raymond van Staden, a trained electro-mechanic with 20 years' experience.

Owing to massive retrenchments in the public service many experienced police and intelligence operatives have entered the private sector. Adding to their number are scores of Telkom technicians, now retired, who offer their (often illegal) services on the open market.

The once feared telephone-tapping resources of the apartheid security apparatus are also up for sale to the highest bidder.

Van Staden said he would not bug a telephone illegally. He makes his bread and butter by debugging offices.

"In almost any newspaper you see adverts for telephone bugging services. Bugging is a crime. What view would the state take if a housebreaker were to advertise his services in the press?" he asked.

Debugging is capital intensive, the tools cost a lot of money. Van Staden, in contrast to the Durban private investigator, says that bugging, on the other hand, can cost very little. A few thousand rands and a bugger is equipped and ready to go. Competition among buggers is, as a result, cut-throat.

The basic tool kit used by a debugger costs about R500 000. Van Staden has two sets of these tools.

Van Staden made few friends when he labelled the bugging of the Democratic Alliance's offices in Cape Town a "hoax".

He believes the discovery of a "bug" in the party's offices in 1999 was nothing but a publicity stunt for the person the party hired to do the sweep.

The DA claimed to have employed a private investigator who discovered a laser beam aimed at a window. This, the DA claimed, was used to monitor conversations in their office.

Van Staden pooh-poohs the claim.

"Such equipment does exist. But it is only effective in clinical conditions. Birds singing, cars passing by, and background music make this equipment fail."

The devices used to bug telephones and boardrooms are almost limitless. Telephones can be modified to act as microphones, allowing a listener to hear conversations 6m or more away.

Tiny transmitters can be wired on to telephone lines. Tiny bugs can also be hidden in wall plugs, phones, televisions and a host of other devices.

"Probe" microphones can be inserted into holes drilled in walls, while "contact" microphones act like enormously powerful stethoscopes, allowing the bugger to hear conversations through walls and thick doors.

Bugs can even be wired into the mains wiring of a room to transmit signals down electricity lines.
According to the head of the South African Council of Investigators, Andy Grudko, there are probably only about six qualified, competent and properly equipped operators in the private sector who can provide specialist technical surveillance investigations -- or debugging services.

The government only has a right to bug phones, offices or homes of suspected criminals. Most bugs Van Staden finds are put in place for the purposes of industrial espionage.

The two main pieces of equipment used by Van Staden -- and most government agencies -- are the Locator Pro and the Scanlock Select Plus, both imported from the United Kingdom.

The Locator Pro picks up the presence of electronic items with diodes in them -- whether they are switched on or not. Tape recorders, microphones and almost anything electronic will be picked up by this device.

The Scanlock Select Plus is used to pick up radio transmissions in a room.

Because radio transmitters can be small, debuggers have to have a large array of tools to look into the tiniest nooks and crannies. Some transmitters are so small they can be hidden in keyholes.

Shipping Firm's Leak Plugged 05/07/2001

It didn't take a lot of hi-tech equipment to catch an alleged "bugster" writes Barbara Cole

DURBAN de-bugging expert Mr Raymond van Staden has more than half a million rand of sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment - but he did not get to use any of it in his latest "bust".

In fact, all he needed to catch alleged bugsters this time were his own eyes.

And although he was prepared to carry out an undercover surveillance for up to three days in the hope of catching the suspects, all it took was an astonishing 90 minutes.

"A debugging expert's main aim is to catch a bugster in the act, and I could not believe my eyes when the alleged suspect turned up at a telephone box near my client's home in broad daylight," said van Staden.

"We find bugs all the time for clients, but it is not every day that we manage to arrest people.

Van Staden had been called in to investigate after a major Durban shipping company became concerned about information leaking out into the market place.

He carried out a sweep on the unnamed client's office, but failed to find any bugging equipment.

Under the Interception and Monitoring Prohibition Act of 1992, it is illegal to intercept a telephone conservation without the knowledge or permission of the person making the call. It is also illegal to bug a conversation to gather confidential information.

Only a judge can order an intercept if he suspects a serious offence has or will he committed or that the security of the country is threatened).

Commercial espionage is on the increase however, globally and in South Africa, and although the South African Interception Act is almost 10 years old, there have been no successful prosecutions. It carries stiff penalties: two years for bugging and three years for passing on information, as well as a R20 000 fine - or all three.

Generally, telephone bugsters use small specially adapted tape recorders with wires attached to the telephone lines, which switch on when the handset is picked up, van Staden said.

After failing to find a bug in his client's office, van Staden turned his attention to a telephone junction box near the client's home on Durban's Berea. He suspected that a monitoring devise - a micro tape recorder - might have been placed in the box on his client's private phone line.


Van Staden's client was prepared to pay for the Warner Beach-based van Staden to carry out a lengthy surveillance on the box, but was "over the moon" when he learned that two men had soon arrived at the scene and opened the Telkom box. Van Staden says he saw them crouching down in the box.

The investigator pounced and carried out a citizen's arrest, helped by SAPS Police Inspector Les Smith of the Flying Squad, who was called in by van Staden.

A special Telkom investigator also arrived to confirm that a mini recorder found in the tangle of wires was on the shipping boss's private line.

Telephone Bugger's Wings Clipped 15/06/2001

by Paul Kirk

The high-profile owner of a Durban electronics shop was arrested this week on suspicion of illegally tapping the telephones of a major shipping company.

Police say only three cases of illegal telephone tapping -- including this week's case -- have been prosecuted since new legislation was passed allowing for serious jail time for telephone buggers. People illegally tapping phones can be jailed for up to two years, and up to five years for disclosing information obtained from an illegal telephone tap.

But, although this crime is on the increase -- with dozens of ex-Telkom technicians and out-of-work police offering bugging services -- the law that prevents telephone tapping is so restrictive it severely hinders the investigation of the crime.

censored advertised in the Durban telephone directory that his business -- the shop in the Durban Pavilion -- supplied electronic surveillance and bugging. In effect he was advertising that he was prepared to break the law.

The Interception and Monitoring Prohibition Act places enormous obstacles in the way of government agencies that may legally monitor telecommunications lines.

Only an assistant commissioner of police, a major general of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) or a chief director of Intelligence Services may approach a judge to request permission to monitor a telecommunications line.

Permission may only be granted for crimes that are being committed over a long period of time, or if they are committed on an organised or regular basis. The only exceptions to these rules are crimes committed under the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act, or crimes that may harm the economy.

A copy of the October 1999 Law Commission report on the Act states that these conditions may be a serious defect to the law -- as a once-off murder, rape or armed robbery would not be sufficient to justify a telephone "bug".

The report reads: "A matter which is alarming in South Africa is the large number of advertisements, sometimes even in law journals, of private investigators offering to deliver services which include 'bugging'. In view of the fact that only the [police], the SA Secret Service, the SANDF and the National Intelligence Agency may be authorised to do interception and monitoring, the legality of monitoring by private investigators is questionable, especially in regard to instances of third party monitoring."

censored was one of Durban's most high-profile advertisers. His arrest followed the employment of Durban debugging expert Raymond van Staden to check the telephone lines of a shipping company.

Most telephone taps are not placed inside the home or office of a victim, instead they are connected to the street boxes to which telephone lines run. Bugs do not normally make any noise on a telephone line and as a rule cannot be detected without specialised equipment and training.

Van Staden says bugs are most commonly in the form of specially modified small tape recorders with wires attached to the telephone line. A special adaptation of the tape recorder switches the device on as soon as the telephone is lifted. The small tapes can generally record one hour of conversation.

According to police sources, the standard charge is R3 000 a week to monitor a telephone line.

After Van Staden discovered the telephone box outside his client's home had been forced open, he looked inside and saw the tell-tale signs of an illegal telephone tap. He then contacted Telkom and the police and prepared to wait for the telephone bugger to return.

To Van Staden's amazement the two alleged buggers returned only minutes later to change the tapes in their monitoring device. Once censored opened the junction box, Van Staden pounced and made a citizen's arrest. Moments later police and Telkom officials arrived.

After a detailed search the telephone "bug" was found hidden among the tangle of wires in the junction box. Members of the police technical support unit searched censored's car. censored's driver, Thinus Delport, was arrested as well.

The bug was removed for fingerprinting and a partial fingerprint was found on the small tape inside.

censored was found to be in possession of tape recorders like the one found in the telephone box.

Police also found a file in his car containing the business cards of most of Durban's large security companies -- suggesting that censored's client base may have been significant.

censored appeared in court and was granted R2 000 bail on Tuesday.

Van Staden said he suspected that industrial espionage may have been the motive for the bugging.

Andy Grudko, of the South African Council of Investigators, said although telephone bugging was on the increase, it was more widespread before the new Act was passed.

He said the council was attempting to weed out illegal telephone tappers from the industry.

Internet banking fraud goes online in Durban 30/03/2001

By Maev Allen

Throwing your transaction slip into the bin next to the ATM can be a costly error as some unlucky customers of a Durban bank have learnt.

The commercial crimes unit is investigating a number of cases of Internet fraud that began with customer transactions at the ATM outside the beach branch of First National Bank (FNB), and resulted in thousands of rands being stolen using the bank's Internet service.

A security guard who was stationed at the ATMs has been arrested in connection with the fraud. The guard, who worked for a private security firm, was spotted on the bank's surveillance camera.

The footage showed him hovering behind customers as they drew money, then retrieving their discarded transaction slips from the wastepaper basket next to the machine.

According to an affidavit supplied by a private investigation firm, Lane & Associates, the guard watched as customers entered their PIN numbers, and then supplied this information as well as the customers' transaction receipts to a fraud syndicate.

The ATM slips, which display the customer's account number, were allegedly passed over to an FNB employee who retrieved further details to access the customers' accounts via the bank's Internet site.

Last month, one unsuspecting customer had an alarming R24 000 transferred out of his account.

Lane & Associates have identified two suspects they believed were part of the syndicate, but no one else has been arrested.

FNB called off the private investigation and the matter has been left in police hands.

Superintendent Paul Kontominas, head of project investigations in organised crime, said: "Our problem is that the criminal is faceless, thanks to the ease of the Net."

Kontominas said this system worked only if the customer was not a registered Internet banker, because when a customer registered at the bank's Internet site, he provided his own password to replace the pin number.

William Ramwell, speaking for the bank, reassured customers that the fraud had been detected and "quickly stopped by the joint actions of FNB's branch and Internet staff".

Kontominas said that Internet fraud was a growing problem, and one that was difficult to fight because of the anonymity of the Internet.

"By the time the crime is reported and we trace the account destination, the criminals are long gone".

Kontominas said that incidents of Internet fraud had not been restricted to FNB. Cases had been reported at other banks.

He said the problem of Internet fraud was not one to be solved by the police, but needed changing the system of banking which allowed these loopholes in security.

Kontominas urged the public to be extremely cautious when making transactions.

He said ATM users should retain their transaction slips and throw them away later.

Unicity council staff under surveillance 24/01/2001

By Phumi Nhlapo

Durban unicity's council employees are being put under surveillance by private security companies hired by the council to monitor their movements while on duty in the field.

This came to light after an arbitration award was won in December by Grineth Mageba, a council employed development facilitator, and made available to The Mercury by her attorney.

In Mageba's arbitration award, the council's development and planning unit was ordered to desist from such a practice Her movements were tracked for six days at a cost of R7 200 Unions were also challenging the council on the general practice of using private security companies and had referred to this as a "cloak and dagger" approach.

In Mageba's case, the unit was said to have hired former security policemen to monitor her movements, which was a "reprehensible and unreasonable" move, according to the arbitrator, which created a threat to her life and amounted to a violation of her privacy.

The unit's human resources director, G G Taylor, was said to have procured the services of the former security policemen after a request by Mageba's manager, Dean Botha, to establish what she was doing on a daily basis.

A surveillance report addressed to Botha from Lane & Associates showed that Mageba's movements had been tracked over six days at a cost to the council of R7 206,62.

However, Mageba's attorney, Themba Ngxingweni, said that Mageba believed she had been under surveillance for about 18 months.

Raymond van Staden, owner of Lane & Associates, denied he or any of his staff had been former security branch policemen. He admitted his company had been hired by the metro council to conduct a surveillance on Mageba.

The South African Municipal Workers' Union's branch secretary, Bill Govender, said the union had received complaints about surveillance of field workers in the council's water department and had taken up the issue with the management.

The Unicity's mayor, Obed Mlaba, said the council had seven different units which had their own operational policies, which made it difficult for him to comment without obtaining more information.

Taylor, to whom The Mercury had also sent questions on Tuesday, had not responded at the time of going to press.

Theft of information is a tough problem 06/04/2000

The cold war was political. It's over. World War III is an economic war. It's here.

Information is where the money is. Information theft is easy, safe, and lucrative. Eavesdropping laws are difficult to enforce. Advances in electronics have made communications interception easy and cheap. Competition is now global and there are more competitors than ever before. Business ethics are not what they used to be.

Knowledge is no longer just power, it's money too. BIG money.

Many executives, even corporate security directors, vacillate dangerously when dealing with information leaks. "I'm probably just being paranoid, but maybe we should check for bugs and wiretaps," is frequently as far as it goes. Maybe it's the fear of looking silly while dealing with this invisible monster. It may be unfamiliarity with the mechanics of dealing with espionage.

In either case, the business community is awakening to what governments have known since the dawn of time. If your information has a financial or power value, it's a target. Eventually, someone will try to take it from you.

Paranoia is often used as the excuse to avoid confronting the espionage problem. It's understandable. After all, this is a tough problem and, naturally enough, most executives are ill equipped to deal with it themselves.

Raymond van Staden is an independent security consultant, based in KwaZulu-Natal, who specialises in electronic eavesdropping detection and espionage prevention, and the legal gathering of information

Van Staden & Associates use the latest technology and, coupled with their extensive experience, provide a professional Investigation, Counter-espionage and Counter-measures service.

Van Staden & Associates has access to numerous On-Line Services, providing them with access to businesses, credit, and consumer information, as well as covering every registered property, businessperson and consumer in South Africa, and numerous other countries.

Time and again, their results have proved how important it is to check company credentials before conducting business deals. Pre-employment checks on staff (i.e. criminal, consumer, drivers licence and educational qualifications) are also essential in these times. Van Staden & Associates has notched up numerous successes in both these fields.

Industrial spies steal the information, not the containers. Information is worth more. The computer will still be on the desk and the information will still be on the disk drive. The chances of being caught stealing the information are slim and the information will be sold for what it is really worth. An industrious spy will sell the same information many times over, as every competitor is a potential customer.

According to Raymond, espionage is preventable and the law only protects those who protect themselves.

Information is like any other corporate asset. Management has a responsibility to protect it. Stockholders can claim negligence and hold company executives responsible if this asset is lost through improper protection efforts. Simple LAG (locks, alarms & guards) will not appear to be proper protection.

"You can't just wander into the courtroom crying 'They stole my business secrets' and expect help," Raymond warns. "You have to show the extraordinary steps you have taken (and maintained) to elevate your business information to secret status.

"You may only get one chance to 'do it right'. Remember, fees and expenses are minor compared to the value of what you are protecting."


Contrary to what is advertised, there is no do-it-yourself magic bullet in eavesdropping detection, says Raymond.

"You can't dial a special phone number to see if your phone is tapped. There is not any one instrument which will detect all bugs for you. There is no gadget, which will protect you from all wire-tappers. Electronic eavesdropping detection is labour and equipment and involves intensive hard work.

"When your consultant conducts inspections of sensitive areas, don't be surprised if you meet between one and three additional technicians and see more than R750 000 worth of electronic test equipment. This is how it is really done."

Competitive Intelligence

The famous American capitalist John D Rockefeller once said, "The next best thing to knowing all about your own business is to know all about the other fellow's business".

"Yes, it is possible to legally gather strategic information on one's competitors," says Raymond. "Van Staden & Associates cc believes that adequate information is a prerequisite for professional research, and the key to such research is the rapid assimilation of facts, acquired data-bases, experts, and various other sources.

With Van Staden & Associates cc knowledge of Intelligence and Counter Intelligence measures the following:

  • No longer will your ideas, plans, strategies, hard work, and privacy disappear mysteriously
  • No longer will you stand helpless as the opposition picks your pocket
  • No longer will you live in fear that stockholders will revolt, and magistrates won't take you seriously
  • No longer will you stand by and wonder if your electronic eavesdropping sweeps are being conducted properly.

"With the assistance of Van Staden & Associates cc you will be enlisting the aid of professional counter-espionage counsel," says Raymond. "You will be prepared to go forth and prosper."

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