Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

All Blacks bugging mystery has hallmarks of specialist skills

As the hunt begins to identify who bugged the All Blacks, security experts have described the outrageous operation as expensive and sophisticated - but expected the culprits to be quickly found.

Daniel Toresen from Auckland private investigations firm Thompson and Toresen described the find as "rare, extreme and serious". He believed it would have been carried out with someone with specialist knowledge on covert operations.

Listening devices were easy to find online, but Toresen said expertise was needed to install and operate them properly. "If this was planted there specifically to spy on the All Blacks, it is a very worrying development indeed," he said.

"There is always the possibility the bug has been there for a while and was intended for spying on someone else, but the timing of it certainly raises a few eyebrows.

"It is pretty scary stuff."

Toresen believed it was likely the culprits would be caught quickly.

"Any audio from it could have been transmitted straight to a listening device in the room next door or beamed to a remote computer," he said. "But with the level of video surveillance going on in hotels these days plus electronic swipe cards for the likes of bedroom doors and lifts, it shouldn't be hard to find out who planted it.

"There will be forensic fingerprints left behind in that room and a full security sweep will have unearthed all sorts of evidence."

Auckland private investigator Brian Sloane, talking to radio sports presenter Tony Veitch on Newstalk ZB, said the listening device would likely be expensive, sophisticated and have taken some time and expertise to set up and operate.

If the All Blacks had been the target of the bugging operation, Sloane said it highlighted the cut-throat stakes in professional sport.

"There is a lot at stake here and it saddens me that the game is a business now, that's a reality," he said.

"With business comes industrial espionage, I guess. Credit to the All Blacks security team for finding the device.

"The ripples from this could be massive and we certainly haven't heard the last of it."

- Herald on Sunday

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