The Different Surveillance System Types
Surveillance is a fairly modern practice. It has been made possible largely through modern technology in order to address problems both new and old. Naturally there are a number of types of surveillance systems in use these days, but some are of course more prevalent and costly than others.
Among the different surveillance system types that have been made possible (and at the same time made necessary at all) in the twenty first century is the matter of computer surveillance. Computer surveillance consists of two parts. The first is the monitoring of activity and data stored on a computer’s hard drive.
Where once this process needed to be accomplished by manually accessing a computer’s hardware, now in this modern age it can be accomplished remotely through the use of the right software programs ranging from the legal (such as cookie programs) to the kind used for covert operations (such as the FBI’s Magic Lantern) to illicit hacking programs (such as the staggering variety of computer worms flowing through shady internet sites).
The other element of computer surveillance lies in the monitoring of data being transferred over computer networks large and small. While this can seem fairly unimpressive these days (witness how people have accepted the idea that some websites are not safe for work as a normal thing), when done over a large scale, monitoring of data traffic can be surprisingly massive.
However, because the endless flood of information over these networks is too large for even a massive spy agency to go through manually, other programs have been created to enable watchers to sift through the onslaught of information and find the data they want. This, somewhat unsurprisingly, can still be something of a matter of random chance, particularly if the monitoring agency is not entirely sure what they should be watching out for.
Among other surveillance system types is the somewhat older art of phone surveillance. This is the practice of spying on telephone calls, as well as using related technologies to monitor and track locations where telephone calls were made and to monitor other forms of information discernible from telephone conversations.
Prior to the advent of cellular phones, this was generally done through an older though oftentimes still relevant form of surveillance called wiretapping, so named for the fact that the wires associated with the telephone itself, hence the term. This used to be a fairly involved process with few people having the expertise to get close enough to the telephone intended to be monitored and then using their technological know how to actually attach the tap.
However, in the modern era of digital phone calls and mobile phones, these methods have largely been replaced by focused software programs intended to enable users to listen in on specific phone calls. Some versions of these programs are widely available, being sold commercially to anyone who can meet the price.
That said, most of these programs must be installed directly on mobile phones the spy has personal access to, which can be quite difficult to get access to. Other, more powerful surveillance programs for mobile phones, generally only found in the hands of governments (though some shady private and underground groups do have access to them) enable users to directly monitor mobile phone calls without direct access to the cellular phone they wish to listen in on.
Perhaps quintessential among surveillance system types are surveillance cameras. Once known as closed circuit television because of the enclosed wires used to connect the cameras with the monitoring station, these systems have grown in sophistication. While the concept dates back to the 1940s, the means to make CCTV surveillance systems a functional means of security did not exist until the 1980s.
Though in the past decade, these systems have seen a veritable explosion in use as digital recording systems are clearer, capable of being easily and widely connected to one another and central monitoring systems, have virtually unlimited storage for recorded footage and a wide array of extra features such as being motion activated that have made these systems very attractive to both government and private individuals.
These systems have never been smaller or more widely available and many people can, with a few hundred dollars, establish a genuine surveillance network using small digital cameras and a central monitoring station that can be established with a moderately priced laptop computer. While these systems are not the most sophisticated uses of this technology, they are quite functional for watching a small home.
More advanced systems will naturally require more expensive hardware, but these systems are also quite readily commercially available. These systems are not all that different from the digital recording systems used by companies and governments, though with few people tasked to watch the cameras, it can be far harder for private individuals to keep track of this information on their own.
Finally, there is the matter of aerial surveillance systems. Much like other surveillance systems, these systems have gotten cheaper, easier to use and more accessible then ever. While these systems were once the province of serious government spies (witness the U-2 spy plane incident of 1960), this type of surveillance is now widely available, even to ordinary civilians, albeit only well heeled ones. Involving the used of unmanned aerial vehicles, digital photographic and video recorders and small computers to record the data, modern aerial surveillance devices are still quite expensive, but growing in popularity among enthusiasts and serious industry alike.