We all hear about this OSINT malarkey but searching the Internet for information is much much more than just dropping a couple of search terms into Google.
There are many different search engines out there and using these various systems, combined with how you actually search for phrases, should bring you the results you are after.
How many of you actually use Google (or any other search engine) properly? This is the first question I ask on our open source course and very few people actually do. Therefore listed below are a few simple techniques to enhance your hit rate.
One of the common problems we encounter when researching individuals is their name. For example, someone called Katherine could be known as: Kat, Cat, Kath, Kathy, Cathy, Kate, Katie, Katy, Kathryn, Catherine etc. So this can cause difficulties and the more unusual, the easier to find.
Below I have listed a few popular ways of conducting searches.
Q. How do I carry out a search for a guy named Steve Davis but I do not want 10 pages of snooker players
A. Type “steve davis” – snooker into Google. Remembering to type the name in speech marks “ ”, leave a space, then the minus sign flowed by snooker. This should reduce your hit rate considerably.
Q. How do I search for Steve Davis who plays the trombone?
A. Type “steve davis” +trombone into Google. So this time, again type the name within speech quotes, leave a space and then use the plus sign followed by trombone. You can also do this with a person’s name and a location or something that they are associated with such as “jerry Green” +dog rescue.
Q. How do I search for a website that has been taken down or how can I see what it looked like back in 2007?
A. Easy peasy, go to Wayback Machine (http://archive.org/web/web.php) and enter the websites name. You’ll see the history of the site and can click on a date to display what the site actually looked like on a particular day. Alternatively, when you do a Google search, click on the little triangle in the list of hits to see the word ‘cached’ to reveal a historic page.
Q. How can I confirm whether a suspicious black car is an Audi or a BMW?
A. Use the app ‘Vehicle Smart’. Tap in the registration and it will tell you everything about the vehicle including MOT history and mileage. In fact, everything but the keeper!
Q. I have an unidentified mobile phone number and want to find out who owns it?
A. A good party trick this one. Add the suspicious number into your mobile phone’s address book and call it ‘Dodgy’. Then go into Whatsapp to start a New Chat with someone and bring up ‘Dodgy’ in the search bar (as if you are going to send them a message). If the suspicious user has a Whatsapp account, you may see their profile pic which is more than you had 10 minutes ago.
Q. I took a photograph and used it on my website. I saw it used on another website without my permission and can’t remember where it was. Can I search for it and will it show me if it has been used anywhere else on the Internet?
A. This is so simple and in the past, I have identified those who have plagiarised images from my website. Either use the website www.tineye.com or better still go into Google Images and look for the camera icon in the search bar. Click on the icon and it will invite to you upload an image. It will show you the sites where the same image is used any other similar images.
Q. I have the website address of www.bodyguard-training.co.uk. How can I find out who owns the domain name?
A. Go to the site who.is and input the domain name. If the owner has not ‘opted out’, you should be able to establish who the owner is.
Q. Can I find out where an email originated from?
A. Yes, but this depends on a few factors. Firstly, you have to view the email in its raw source to view the headers and then identify the IP addresses through which it has been routed. This can be tricky but achievable.
Q. Is there a website that searches and also connects any associations?
A. Yes, go to search.carrot2.org type in your search terms and then use the tabs to view any association.
Q. I am searching for someone on Facebook but they may have changed their profile name, it looks like they have disappeared.
A. Facebook is a days teaching in itself. Try dropping the persons email address or phone number into the FB search bar, you’ll be surprised what comes up. In addition, everyone on Facebook has a unique identifier code which is easy to establish, this identifier code is then used in a particular search tool, to reveal all of their Facebook history and what they are calling themselves now, but you’ll have to enrol on an OSINT course to find out how.
This is the tip of a very large iceberg. Open source research is so vast and is constantly developing at a high speed. There are many search engines for different purposes, so consider others instead of Google. Twitter for example, reveals so much information if interrogated properly and many youngsters in Europe are now using the Russian version of Facebook (VK). Happy hunting!
THE NEW Open Source Intelligence
By: Pete Jenkins
Peter Jenkins is Director of ISS Training Ltd, a security consultancy and specialist training company. ISS specialises in Covert Surveillance, Intelligence and photography training.