Various Types of Wiretaps Used for Surveillance

by | Published on Dec 4, 2013 | Wire Tap Transcription

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Wiretapping is used by the police, intelligence agencies and other authorized and private investigation teams to listen in on and record telephone, telegraph, or teletype communications of crime suspects without being discovered. In most U.S., states, wiretapping or bugging is allowed only when a state judge has issued a warrant authorizing them. The recorded wiretapped conversations are transcribed verbatim and the legal transcripts presented in the court during litigation as evidence. This is why accuracy is crucial in wire tap transcription.

The method of wiretapping involves simply tying into a wire (for example, telephone lines, PBX (private branch exchange) cables, a local area network or any other type of communication medium) or other conductor used for communication. Before digitization, it was quite expensive and labor intensive to obtain and monitor wiretaps. Today, there are different types of wiretaps from which you can choose the one that is apt for your purpose. Wiretaps generally fall into the following four categories:

    • Hardwired Wiretap – Once physical access is gained to the section of wire through which the signal passes, a second set of wires are attached by making use of an isolation or slave device which will cause the signal bridge back to a secure location or listening post. This type of wiretapping is quite hard to trace and very popular among the police departments in the United States.


    • Soft Wiretap – You can set up soft wiretap by modifying the software used to run the telephone system so that the information can be retrieved with ease. This kind of wiretap is preferred to hardwire wiretap. It may be easy to discover this wiretapping in PBX, but it is very difficult to find it in a phone company’s system as it would require completely unrestricted access to the working of the computer systems in the company, which is nearly impossible. Soft wiretap, also known as REMOBS (remote observation), is widely used by large law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies.


    • Recording Wiretap – This is similar to hardwired wiretap, in which the second section of wires lead to a tape recorder or digital recorder. The recording device may be either placed right there or at a remote place. Private investigators and amateur spies largely use this kind of wiretapping as it is easy to handle. The disadvantage of this method is that tapes or other storage devices need to be changed regularly to retrieve the data, resulting in greater risk of exposure to the person changing it.


  • Transmit Wiretap – It is a small RF (radio frequency) transmitter which picks up signal from two wires or through a hidden microphone (in this case, transmit wiretap is called ‘bug’). Being small, RF transmitter can be placed even in a cell phone for recording. This eliminates the need for the presence of physical line in the case of other categories. As transmit wiretaps emit RF signals on a large scale, they can be detected by a bug sweep expert (TSCM Specialist) with a high level of technical expertise and the right equipment. However, if the wiretaps are properly installed, they can be quite difficult to detect.

Whatever be the type, wiretaps need to be transcribed with high level of accuracy. Organizations with a large volume of wiretaps to transcribe are better off by opting for professional wire tap transcription services. In view of the legalities involved in wiretap, ensure that the transcripts are legally certified and notarized for court presentations.

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