Our roundup of stealth office products will help you survive in a workplace full of thieves, slackers, backstabbers and spies — real or imagined.
THE SIGNS ARE ALL THERE. Your stapler was moved a quarter-inch. Your chair's lumbar support has been monkeyed with. The clincher: Last night you counted 13 Snickers in your stash drawer, and now there are only 12. You're convinced that someone has been rummaging through your desk. All kinds of wild visions run through your head. Maybe your boss is checking up on you. Or maybe your colleagues are up to no good. Are those ingrates plotting to get me canned?
Luckily for you, there's a whole host of products designed to help you find out what's really going on in your office. Some have practical applications. Others are reserved for the truly paranoid. No matter what your suspicion, there's a tool for every scenario, even those that are a little — how should we put this delicately — far-fetched.
Someone's snooping in your office.
You've seen the video cameras concealed in teddy bears, but you need something that'll blend with office decor. How about a camera disguised as a working desktop lamp ($174; www.bolideco.com)? Or one that doubles as a tissue box ($325; www.spooktech.com)? The lens opening is the size of a pinhole, so no one will suspect they're being recorded until you confront them. J'accuse!
They're messing with your computer.
Suspect that someone's been burrowing through your hard drive at night? Install Spector 2.1 ($69.95; www.spectorsoft.com) to find out for sure. This software takes hundreds of screen shots every hour, as many as one a second. When you arrive the next day, you can review the shots and find that — ah, just as you thought — someone's been peeking at your Tetris scores. Another option: A software called B.A.I.T. (www.codexdatasystems.com) allows you to tag your computer files. If they're stolen, then opened on another computer, you'll get an e-mail identifying the offender. The price for peace of mind? A hefty $3,000.
Your workers are slacking off.
There's Smithers staring at his screen. Is he working on that overdue report or playing videogames — again? You don't have time to peek over his shoulder every 10 minutes, so install eBlaster 2.0 software ($69.95; www.spectorsoft.com) on his computer. It will email reports to you every half-hour detailing every Web site he's visited, every program he's run and every keystroke he's entered — even those he deletes. Option B: Plug the inch-long KeyKatch ($99; www.codexdatasystems.com) onto his keyboard cable. It records up to 65,000 keystrokes. Once you plug it into your own computer and download, you'll discover the truth about Smithers: He's scheming to sell your kidney on eBay.
You're being watched.
In "The Conversation," Gene Hackman plays a paranoid surveillance expert convinced that his apartment is tapped. He tears up the walls and floors searching for the elusive bug. No need to pull a Hackman and rip apart your cubicle if you suspect you're being observed by your boss. Just get Capri Electronics' VCD-43 Video Camera Detector ($249; www.thespystore.com). If there's a camera operating anywhere within 15 feet, this device (it looks like a walkie-talkie) will sniff it out. When the LEDs start to light up, you know you're in Big Brother territory.
They're plotting behind your back.
Perhaps they're just planning to order Chinese, but why does it seem as if your colleagues are always whispering when you walk by? Thwart your evil co-workers with the Bionic Ear Electronic Sound Amplifier ($149; www.spooktech.com). This device, which consists of headphones and a microphone, lets you eavesdrop on conversations in the next cubicle or far down the hall — though it won't work through walls. Had Caesar used one of these, he might still be alive.
They're lying to you.
Sure, they'll fib to your face when you confront them about those missing Snickers bars, but the HandyTruster-Emotion Reader ($90; www.wiips.com) takes some of the guesswork out of distinguishing fact from fiction. This device, billed as a pocket-size lie detector, monitors changes in voice caused by rising stress levels. When the lying starts, bites disappear from an on-screen apple. We found the Truster could pick up only the most bald-faced fabrications, so you still have to watch out for those monotone liars.
A disgruntled co-worker wants revenge.
In this post-Unabomber era, it's not just the paranoid who should be worried about unmarked packages. Protect yourself with the PLBD 4000 Package & Letter Bomb Detector ($4,200; www.specializedguard.com). Slide your mail through an opening in the detector and an alarm will sound if it contains explosive materials, electrical triggering devices or any other ferrous elements. Bonus: The device is housed in an attache case, giving it a cool 007 feel. Not all self-protection devices are as practical. Take the Ballistic Clipboard ($450; www.w2.com/docs2/z/spyshop.html). Said to offer protection against anything up to a 9mm handgun (we'll take their word for it), it comes with a mounted grip. You can use it to take notes or deflect bullets — just don't try both at once.
It's payback time.
She stole your ideas, snubbed you at the office party and made fun of your tie. Why take the high road? Revenge is so easy these days. Exhibit A: the Wrong Number Generator ($99.95; www.bolideco.com). Plug this slim, 4-inch-long device into your nemesis's phone line and — presto — three of every four calls she makes will reach a wrong number, just enough to make her think she's lost it. The truly depraved may resort to using Sonic Nausea ($59.95; www.spyproducts.com). Hide it in your enemy's office, flip the switch and this small device generates ultra high-frequency sound waves said to cause headaches, dizziness or even vomiting. Ah, the wonders of technology.