Kevin Hunt: Technology for the amateur spy

This clock is watching you.

This clock is watching you. (July 21, 2014)

Spy technology has become so widespread and smartphone-ready that sleuthing, like golf, can be played by almost anyone.

Not everyone can own a Stingray II, the controversial surveillance device from Harris Corp. that gathers cellphone data from targeted neighborhoods and costs, by some estimates, more than $130,000. The company, which does not discuss its products or its prices, has even required local police departments to sign a nondisclosure agreement forbidding them to acknowledge use of its equipment.

What's spy work without secrecy, or at least a nondisclosure?

The everyday spy, meanwhile, shops at online spy boutiques, or, yes, the local Home Depot. Spying isn't as glamorous as it used to be, but it does make one wonder who's watching, listening, tracking and scouring our data.

Laws regarding recording vary, so be sure to make sure your scoping is not in violation of any of them.

A few options:

JLM Security GPS Tracking Device ($139, Aside from an appearance on "Breaking Bad," this USB device is best known as an economical tracker with no monthly fees. Where's your wild teen, or spouse, tonight? The GPS tracks a vehicle within about 8 feet of its precise location. The device, powered by two AAA batteries, uses a simple magnet mount to attach almost anywhere in a vehicle.

Stealth RF Pen Detector ($245, Paranoid? Who's paranoid? Don't be a victim of corporate or industrial espionage — or an overbearing parent. The Stealth pen detects electronic spying devices, such as listening or recording devices, in your home, car or office. It runs almost eight hours on a single AAA battery.

CounterTek GSM-Box 2 ($245, If your cellphone has been compromised, the GSM-Box knows it. This device detects the illegal activation of a phone that could transmit your communications, voice and data to someone else. The GSM-Box also creates a white-noise field to block the microphone when it senses radio waves, a possible sign of eavesdropping equipment.

Mini Gadgets' Toy Dog Hidden Camera ($349.95, Cute dog for baby's room, watchdog for baby sitter or nanny. This covert canine records VGA-quality (1280 x 960 pixels) video to 16 gigabytes of internal memory. The battery-operated dog records continuously or, alternatively, set it for motion detection.

Recover It USB Stick ($159, Concerned a teen (or spouse) is viewing online porn, visiting forbidden chat rooms or texting young Brazilian women during the World Cup when he should be studying? This USB device recovers deleted data from smartphones, tablets and computers. During a scan, the Recover It sorts images and videos into folders identified as clean, suspicious or highly suspicious.

New Energy Spy Watch ($69.97, For the spy on a budget, from Home Depot. This watch records 640 x 480 video, and audio, onto 8 gigabytes of internal memory. (Each gigabyte stores 40 minutes of video.) The battery powers up to 80 minutes of recording. To retrieve the information, you must first retrieve the device and connect it to a computer. Viewing options include text, displayed over a digital street map or over a Google Earth satellite image.

mSpy mobile tracking software ($200, The spy software developed by MTechnology Ltd. once targeted parents of spoiled, incorrigible kids. It's now available for the HTC One, Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5s for spying, perhaps on spouses, adult children or, for business owners, employees. The software, via online access, reveals call and text records, email, Web history, GPS location, photos stored on the device and Skype chats.

SleuthGear Wireless Wall Clock ($449.99, The clock is merely a front for the sleuth's hidden-camera (and DVR). It comes with an LCD receiver screen that can accommodate up to four cameras/clocks. It records 630 x 480 video onto an SD card up to 32 gigabytes, or streams to an iPhone or iPad or via a computer connected to the LCD receiver.

Voice Changer Pro ($675, A law enforcement-caliber voice changer too expensive for gags (try the $69.95 Micro Voice Disguiser).While other changers only alter pitch, the Pro also controls timbre, tone, reverberation and spectral peaks to produce realistic voices — of either gender — unrecognizable as yours. This machine is probably best left for law enforcement purposes.

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