I was highly inspired by a Quora user who asked “What is something you saw on a hidden camera that you wish you had never seen?” and requested me to answer. At first I felt reluctant but I told myself “If I refuse to share my experience, it will be useless after all”
This is not a fiction, I have decided not to mention the name of the employer, nor the employees involved in the act.
Few years back, I used to work as a contract staff “CCTV installation supervisor” at a big firm. There was a control room which the CCTV and Electrical departments shared. At one side, we had our DVRs, NVRs, Network Switches, PTZ controllers, Security Monitors, and PCs running CMS.
The electrical department at the other end had their electrical panels installed, the electrical panels contained Miniature Circuit Breakers (MCBs) controlling nearly all the light points in the firm. We were the only authorized personnel to access the control room.
We had always experienced hard disk failure on a particular DVR (16-channel). On one faithful morning, I was summoned by the management board for questioning.
During the meeting, I was asked to defend my department from an allegation of incompetency and sabotage, just after the hard drive has been replaced more than 5 times.
I was so furious but at the same time gripped with fear, I managed to defend myself with the help of the possible terminologies that I knew could save me from the moment of shame.
But at the end of the questioning, I demanded for fund to upgrade the DVR system and it was granted, wow! Moment of relief, this made me so happy knowing that I was going incognito to find out the possible cause of the persistent hard disk failure.
Moment after the meeting ended, I got a call from the account department that fund has been disbursed for the upgrade of the affected DVR. What I love about the firm is that any matter relating to CCTV surveillance is treated as top priority.
Here comes my hidden actions
I got the money and headed to CCTV shop to get accessories that will do the job, below are the equipment bought.
- A 720p hidden camera
- Audio/Video wireless transmitter and receiver
- 10 meters DC Power RCA Audio Video AV 3 IN 1 Extension Cable
- 13 Amp 3 pin flat female socket
- 13 Amp 3 pin multi-plug adaptor
- 12V/2Amp Adapter
- 2 units of 20mm PVC pipes cut into several pieces to fit into my bag, couplers and PVC gum.
- 10 meters of 2 pair twisted cable
- DC male and female socket
- Wall filler/putty
- White spray paint
The tools we already have in the control room:
- Cutting plier
- Electrical tester
- Electrical tape
- Masking tape
- Hand trowel
- Flat chisel
- A small size hammer
I brought all the devices and accessories into the control room and locked them in my locker with the key sitting in my pocket.
Without informing anybody asides my direct boss whom I shared common interest with, I stayed back at the office a night after the meeting was held and when it was exactly 9pm, I started my work.
- I made a hole for the camera in the wall with a punch tool after finding the best spot, where I could set it to capture the entrance door and the target DVR.
- I cracked the wall with a flat chisel to make way for the 20mm size PVC pipe that would convey the video and power cable to the suspended ceiling.
- I placed the PVC pipes with the respective cables inside.
- I first covered the camera tiny lens with masking tape, and spray-painted the entire hidden camera colour white, this is to make it blend with the wall.
- I waited for the camera to dry, removed the masking tape and placed it in its position in the wall.
- I mixed the wall filler with little water, stirred thoroughly and used it to cover the hole on the wall after which I spray-painted it to blend totally with the wall.
- There is a particular light bulb which is permanently left on, I connected the 13Amp 3 pin flat female socket with a short 2-pair twisted cable to the mains of the light bulb, knowing that I would only use it to power a very low amperage device.
- I managed to feed the camera with power through the 13Amp socket.
- I used a video and audio wireless transmitter which I thought was best for the covert mission to transfer the video signal.
- It was so magical that the dropped ceiling helped to conceal the hidden camera cable and no one could see it.
I hooked up the wireless receiver to the spare 4 channel DVR in the control room and it worked perfectly, I was so happy.
I filled-up the remaining part of the wall with white cement which I had brought in the early morning of the second day and spray-painted it, nobody could notice anything on the wall, it was perfectly done.
The morning after I had done the installation, I went to my boss’ office which is only 10ft away from the control room, I set up the wireless receiver together with the spare 4 channel DVR, which I had earlier removed from the control room and it worked.
Exactly 8 days after we changed the last hard disk, the bad happened again, but this time, it was filmed. The CCTV operator was caught disassembling the DVR, he removed the hard disk and hit it with a big size hammer couple of times while holding it in his hand.
He returned the hard disk and reassembled the DVR. We eventually knew that was how he has been destroying the previous hard disks.
We were able to outsmart him by secretly spying the activities in the control room from a remote office.
Even though I was able to redeem myself from the allegations levied against me, I wished I never saw it on hidden camera because I felt sad watching it.
The footage from the hidden camera was recovered from my boss’ office, and it led to arrest of the CCTV operator. After further investigation by the police, it was linked to some staffs in the maintenance department and security operatives, who all connived to steal electrical cables from the maintenance department on a regular basis.
The security cameras that covered the main gate and maintenance entrance door were all connected to the target DVR. This was the reason why he kept damaging the hard disk, since he could not isolate the target cameras or delete their footage.
I was commended for the brave step, but my instinct told me to leave because there might be danger ahead of me in the firm. But before I left, I built a Network Attached Storage of 20TB and trained the technical staffs on how to use it.
It is not good to get involved in sabotage or criminal act, this poses a lot of risk especially for a CCTV operator or security agent, and it is like breaking the oath of trust.
Nevertheless, it is also important but not mandatory for a CCTV or home security expert to know how to spot or detect their environment for any possible security threat.
Even though my action to uncover the ugly incident went to the extreme, however, it helped to put a stop to the theft.
This is my story.