A while ago, this suspicion only bothered those who knew they could be held accountable for their illegal activities or those who found themselves on the paranoid end of the spectrum. But now, in light of the unsettling recent disclosures such as Snowden’s 2013 exposure of the many government-run clandestine operations, everyday citizens have started bolstering the ranks of concerned, over-the-shoulder lookers.
Since we’re heading in that direction anyway, here are a couple of useful tips for discerning whether the threat is real or just in our heads.
1. Is there a reason?
First of all, we have to understand it takes time and money to watch somebody. If you think you’re being watched, what could be the reason for your presumed surveillance? Were you involved in some type of illicit affair? No? A romantic affair that left you with a jealous ex-lover perhaps?
If the above doesn’t apply, you might have been targeted by your company or your employer’s competition. It might sound far-fetched but you’d be amazed if you knew the underworks of big companies or the extent to which the cutthroat attribute applies in modern businesses. Knowing somebody’s secrets is the best way to keep ahead of him.
2. Check for tails
Tailing someone requires a major resource expenditure and might be the preferred approach of private investigators and disgruntled exes. Authorities almost never favor this manner of operating because it is time consuming and wastes money.
The best way you could avoid your tail is to be aware. Check your surroundings at all time and keep your eyes on the world around you. If something seems out of place, don’t give yourself out. Conspicuously looking over your shoulder is a practice best avoided. Should you act like you know you are being followed, your pursuers will most likely back down and try another time.
Slowing your pace is a good way to check if you’re being tailed. Stop and pretend to smell the roses. Check your phone. Window shop. It works if you’re driving as well. Experts recommend that you make four consecutive left or right turns, as almost no one drives in circles.Well, no one except somebody who believes they’re being followed and the one doing the following.
If you feel your suspicions are met, call 911 and be sure to wait for the proper authorities in a crowded public area, if possible.
Try not to panic since the last thing you’d want to do is to start running or driving like crazy.
3. Check your home/office
If your home or office shows signs of unexplained disturbance, you might want to perform a thorough inspection. Check all doors and windows for signs of entry. Look for electrical sockets that look like they’ve been tampered with. The same goes for wall plates or fixtures and fittings.
If ceiling tiles are damaged or crooked or if you discover debris, it could be an indicator of unauthorized entry. Check to see if furniture or office equipment has been moved. Also, if new items such as clocks, lamps or radios appeared overnight, be sure to inspect them.
As you do this, ignore the “Welcome to Paranoia City! Population: You” sign that pops up in your head and try to keep an open mind. Refer to #1 if you think somebody bugged you.
4. That Dry Cleaner’s van has been parked on your street for over a week now
Even though this one might seem like a movie cliché, we’re told it’s definitely real. If you spot any suspicious vehicles, particularly vans, parked near your home or place of work, you might be looking at an iconic surveillance method and chances are they’re looking back at you.
The best course of action would be to hope they’re looking for somebody else.
5. Snap, crackle and pop
Not the breakfast cereal cartoon mascots, the audio artifacts that are present when a phone is tapped. Oftentimes, bad cellular service means that you’ll be hearing background noise during your phone calls. But when irregularities on phone lines become ever-present, it might be an indication that someone is eavesdropping.
Recording software sometimes produce clicking and beeping noises that you’d normally hear during a conference call. This happens because some call recording software employ the same principle as conference calls but obviously without asking for your permission.
Another sign that your conversations aren’t really private could be sudden or unexpected interference on other electronic devices. If your TV just started making odd noises every time you use the phone, it would be safe to assume it can’t be trusted.
6. Be wary of your smartphone
Despite our visceral attachment to our tablets and smartphones, they are usually the first targets in the event of us being under surveillance.
If spy software is installed on our devices, it can easily divulge sensitive information such as GPS data and conversations. If you suspect your smartphone is cheating on you, you’d better check its behavior. If it randomly shuts down or lights up when unused or if it makes beeping noises when it shouldn’t, something might be going on. While it’s fairly common for electronic devices to put on such acts, a consistently odd behavior might be a sign that spyware is installed.
Another possible sign that spyware is present on your device is a dramatic shift in its battery life. But keep in mind that batteries lose their efficiency over time before becoming paranoid.
Also, check your data usage. Cheap spy programs usually use your service provider’s data plan to send out the information they collect. Again, the keywords are sudden and unexpected spikes in the behavior of your device.
It is possible to bypass all of these hindrances if you believe your smartphone is tapped and tracked. You could attach your phone to a stray cat or any other small mammal but we’ve only seen this method work in movies so use it at your own risk.
7. Beware keyloggers
Keyloggers are malicious computer programs that record and analyze every keystroke you make on your computer. They have catastrophic potential and cause billions of dollars in damage every year.
In order for a keylogger to be effective, it needs to cover its tracks. You won’t see its icon in the system tray.
Our only advice is having a good antivirus software and monitoring your computer’s processes for any suspicious activity.
You should know that most keyloggers consume a lot of resources because they need to process a lot of data. So, if you notice your computer is lagging way more than it used to, maybe it’s time you cut down on your downloads from unverified sources.
8. Encrypt and use your own tracking software
If you really want to keep your emails private, use an encrypted email client. It’s not that hard to set up but it gives anyone who wants to read your messages a run for his money.
You could take things a bit further if you wanted to discover the one who so ungraciously peruses your correspondence. Should you opt for an email tracking software, it would allow you to see when and where your email was opened along with other useful information, such as IP addresses. As you’d expect, surveillance works both ways.
If everything else failed and you’re seriously thinking about tinfoiling your way out, you’re out of luck. Despite being the preferred resource when making fun of conspiracy theorists who went a little over the edge, a tinfoil hat doesn’t work as a deterrent for government-sanctioned mind control. It actually makes things worse.
In 2005, a group of MIT students tested the effectiveness of three designs of tinfoil helmets with surprising results.
The idea behind a tinfoil helmet is that it acts like a Faraday cage, shielding its wearer’s head (and brainwaves) from external interference. But in order for it to work like a Faraday cage, the helmet would have to completely encase the wearer’s head, a thing notoriously made difficult by the presence of a neck and various face organs that needn’t be covered at all times.
What the MIT experiment showed was that tinfoil helmets actually made things worse by amplifying certain frequencies, specifically those in the 1.2 and 2.6 GHz bands. The 1.2 GHz frequencies are used in aeronautical and satellite communication while the 2.6 GHz frequencies are employed by mobile communication and broadcast satellites.
Incidentally(?), those are the exact frequencies used in mind control experiments, according to every other conspiracy theory out there. Who knows, maybe the MIT jokingly revealed the truth in their flippant conclusion: “the current helmet craze is likely to have been propagated by the Government, possibly with the involvement of the FCC.”
Stranger things have happened, to be honest.
10. No tip here
You’re not under surveillance, at least not any more than the rest of us. Go on with your life and remember to keep your information secure.
You are under surveillance, just like the rest of us in which case God help us all!
Feel free to share your own tips for living with the big eye of The Man looking down on us!