When James Bond debugs his hotel room he peers into the lamp shade, squashes a grape onto the offending device and, presto, blissful privacy.
In real life, however, microchip and laser technology has advanced electronic surveillance to a level of sophistication far immune to 007's fast-fix methods.
While bugging is a flourishing global activity, the Russians are respectfully acknowledged as pioneers, even if they fell behind the Americans in recent years and somewhat dissipated their skills.
"The Russians had so many experts who were suddenly out of a job (after the 1991 Soviet collapse) and they've gone into private industry -- we're finding them operating in London and all over the place," said Norman Bolton, former bugging instructor at Britain's Scotland Yard and now top bug man at the Pinkerton Consulting and Investigation agency.
"They are very, very good and their commitment is incredible, so they make a dangerous enemy."
Russian eavesdropping prowess dates back at least to 1946, when Soviet schoolchildren presented a two-foot wooden replica of the Great Seal eagle emblem of the US to Ambassador Averell Harriman in Moscow.
The seal hung in the embassy for years, part of the time in the ambassadorial office, until security staff cut it open in 1952 to find an undetectable listening device the size of a pencil.
The beauty of the bug was its simplicity: a small chamber in the eagle's beak acted as a diaphragm, resonating to sound waves. There was no internal power pack or wires to betray it, but voices could be monitored using an ultra-high frequency signal beamed from a van parked nearby.
The device is thought to have stemmed from the work of Lev Termen, a Russian scientist better known for his invention in 1919 of the theremin, an electronic musical instrument that later provided the whistling effect in the Beach Boys' hit Good Vibrations. Imprisoned in Siberia in 1938, he was put to work by the intelligence services.
The fruits were not revealed until 1960 when US officials displayed the treacherous seal carving at the UN.
Not to be outdone, their own spymasters came up with some fancy if gruesome ideas of their own. In 1966 the CIA installed a bug inside a live cat called Acoustic Kitty for planned use against the Soviets.
The unfortunate animal was slit open and fitted with the battery-powered device and its tail was rigged as an antenna. But in its maiden test the cat was run over by a taxi.
In the mid-1980s the Soviet KGB security agency mounted what a US Senate committee later described as the "most massive, sophisticated and skillfully executed bugging operation in history".
When the US embassy in Moscow prepared to occupy a new chancery building completed by the Soviets in 1985, CIA experts found they couldn't rid it of the unprecedented hordes of hidden devices.
Among the surprises in the duly nicknamed "giant transmitter" building were bugs implanted in welded girder seams, constructed of materials of the same density as the metal so that they would not even show up under X-ray examination. The chancery stood empty until the late 1990s when US construction workers removed the upper floors and rebuilt them.
Dealing a return shock to the Russians, a secret tunnel and monitoring facility was discovered in 2001 beneath their embassy in Washington, evidently having been active for years.