January 11, 2022

Bugged Coffee Maker in the Lunch Room

A very prominent and well-known San Diego civil law firm contacted us regarding what they felt was an attack of corporate espionage by some outside source stealing sensitive information.

Our thorough and methodical sweep discovered a bug in a very unlikely place – inside the break room coffee maker!

The firm was involved in many facets of law including personal injury, employment, labor relations and the insurance industry. They had a number of attorneys who were considered some of the best trial lawyers in America. The four partners were absolutely convinced that their phones were bugged and listening devices must be planted throughout their 25,000 sq. feet of office space. A meeting was held off-site in what we knew to be a secure location. During this evaluation meeting, we proposed to them that they should consider an inside mole who might be feeding their competition. This is done not to create unwanted paranoia but to suggest alternatives before we initiate a search. The partners were convinced that it must be an outside source and did not want to purse alternative theories.

The sweep was 95% completed with no monitoring devices found. However, we sweep even areas where monitoring devices are rarely found, such as hall closets, file rooms, storage rooms and the kitchen/lunch room area. Within moments of declaring the offices completely clear, a technician received troubling signals from the kitchen area. Upon closer inspection, his attention was drawn to the coffee maker in the center of the room near the sink. The signal was extremely strong and it we decided to disassemble the unit.

We found a very sophisticated monitoring device tied to the electrical line. Upon learning of our findings, management remembered that the unit was a “gift” from a secretary who claimed she had won the unit in a drawing and it was too big for her home. The personnel file for this subject was obtained and it was determined she left about seven months early – a week after she “gifted” the coffee maker to the firm. She was discovered working for a downtown San Diego law firm that was in direct competition with our client. Efforts to speak with this former employee meet with negative results.

Over the previous seven months, all the water-cooler talk over legal cases and litigation plans in the lunch room had been overheard. The lunch room is not only a much quieter place today, it is also much more secure.