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How to make your own device to detect GPS tracker?


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I'm interested in creating a TSCM device (tactical surveillance counter measure) and am wondering what you all think the most effective / affordable approach might be?

A friend of mine believes her car is bugged - I started to look up options and they are all around $225. I want to help her scan her car by building my own relatively quickly.. and be able to check further vehicles.

Any thoughts?

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Not sure why your friend would think she is being tracked unless she thinks its her parents or a boyfriend or something. But as Barry99705 mentioned most public trackers work on cell signals or are data loggers and need recovered in order to pull the data off of them. In any case they either need to be connected to a power source of some sort or the batteries replaced on a regular basis. If it is battery powered the battery pack will be rather large which will limit where it can be placed. If it is connected to a constant power source in the car again that limits where it can be placed as there are very few places that will maintain power when the car is turned off. If it is not connected to a constant power source then it will lose signal every time the car is turned off which may not be an issue for who ever is monitoring the tracker in which case the places it can be placed are still limited but greatly more than constant power source. Regardless looking through the car, under the seats, in the bumbers, easy to access places. Most people are not going to go through the amount of work that it would take to pull parts off the car and hide something especially if they have to pull it off on a regular basis.

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Not sure why your friend would think she is being tracked unless she thinks its her parents or a boyfriend or something.

All it takes is 1 bad experience. I know a girl who basically, in the course of academic research, blew the whistle on a major defence contractor's dealings with the government, effectively torpedoing a multi-billion dollar project.

They terminated her research project (of course), got her in a shitload of trouble with her university and since their stuff was on her devices they took those from her to remove in a manner they were comfortable with which rather irked her. When she got them back she was convinced they were turned into spying tools and started noticing things that were... off.

She's since fled the US believing she's just a shade under Snowden-level target of interest to the NSA. This is causing all sorts of issues. Nice example: she bought a new laptop while here in Europe and tried to secure it as best she can - encrypted everything, TOR for everything, trying to stay under any radar. Then one day her screen just glitched a bit - just went black briefly before returning to normal operation. She was instantly convinced the machine was hacked by some intelligence agency and was being actively spied on.

When you believe they're out to get you, you're going to see all sorts of proof that they are. For her, it would be completely legitimate to assume a room full of highly-paid IT professionals have a full-time job tracking down her machine, putting spyware on it, and then show their hand by having her machine act up as a means to show her they're still on to her.

I feel kinda sad for her and people like her because unless they're willing to accept that the likelihood of them being spied upon is actually very close to 0 they're going to try to protect themselves from the perceived threat which is likely only going to result in 'regular' people considering them so thoroughly paranoid and/or crazy that they're going to keep their distance, effectively causing the effect the individual was trying to fight against.

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In this case it's an ex-boyfriend of 5 years who is very wealthy / notoriously a bit crazy. She saw his vehicle in her driveway a few nights back - and the subsequent days he was checking in at the same locations she was visiting, more than would be coincidental. Places the guy never goes.

It's unlikely still - but was just wondering if I could help her check for an active scanner that is transmitting signal. What would the best cell data detection tool / process be?

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First and foremost, tell her to file a police report for stalking. I'm sure that will help when, if he persists, she goes and ask for a restraining order. He'll also have quite a bit more to explain if for some reason something happens to her - you're going to have to be the judge if that's a likely scenario (and if so, maybe go straight for the restraining order).

You're going to want to get something like a HackRF and look at the spectrum while the car is driving somewhere that doesn't have much cell tower coverage and next to no population (which, thankfully tends to be something you find in combination). So, drive WAY out into the sticks and look at the reception on your own phone. When you see things truly tank (doesn't have to be zero, just really low) and you're pretty much alone in the middle of nowhere, turn off your phone and scan the normal frequency for a mobile phone in the US. The thing to consider is that a cell phone will get louder when the towers are further away so it should be a very significant signal. Keep the car running. If the thing's there it'll probably try to transmit something every few minutes rather than for every X amount of distance travelled so bring a book.

Probably the saner thing to do is to have a mechanic look at it. If her car was parked when someone attached something it's almost certainly on the outside and more specifically attached to the bottom of the car. So go to a dealership or some place you know has a very good idea of what the underside of the car should normally look like and let them give it a once-over while up on a bridge. I'm confident if something's there it'll stick out like a sore thumb. It'll be easier, probably cheaper (unless you already own a HackRF) and if something does turn out to be there she can take some pics of it in situ, she'll have an independent witness and she can then drive to the police and have them remove it (fingerprints, chain of custody on the evidence, all that jazz) to build a stalking/harassment case which should be more than sufficient for the police to have a friendly chat with the guy and to make that restraining order a minor formality.

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Thank you for the thoughtful answers Cooper.

HackRF is a good suggestion and something I was considering. Just was wondering if there is something cheaper that only scans cellular instead of all the bands.

Already suggested the dealership / chain of custody route which she's going to start with today.

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