Hetherington Group https://www.hetheringtongroup.com Expert Investigations and Intelligence Services Wed, 18 Sep 2019 16:43:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.1 https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/cropped-Hg_Asset-1-32x32.png Hetherington Group https://www.hetheringtongroup.com 32 32 141851536 Hetherington to Be Honored at The Society for Professional Investigators’ 63rd Annual Award Gala https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/spi-award-hetherington-2019/ Thu, 19 Sep 2019 09:33:39 +0000 https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/?p=23370 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 19, 2019

Contact: Paul Atkinson

Phone: 973.706.7525

Email: paul@hetheringtongroup.com

Ms. Hetherington will receive the Investigation Educator Award alongside Terence Monahan, Chief of Department for the NYPD, who will receive the Distinguished Public Service Award

(Wanaque, NJ) Tonight, Cynthia Hetherington, Hg’s founder and president, will be honored with the Investigation Educator Award at The Society for Professional Investigators’ 63rd Annual Award Gala to be held at Giando on the Water in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The Society  (SPI) will also recognize Terence Monahan, the 40th Chief of Department for the New York Police Department, with the Distinguished Public Service Award.

“Cynthia is the undisputed, undefeated champion of open source intelligence,” noted SPI President Bruce Sackman. “She is the number one go-to person for both training and actual research to collect electronic evidence and investigative leads from the Internet.”

Founded in 1955, the mission of SPI is to provide the very best forum possible for the education, training and networking of its members. Each month SPI members meet at Forlini’s Restaurant in New York City, the legendary Italian restaurant behind the Manhattan Criminal Courts Building on Baxter Street, to listen to guest speakers who are the very tops in their fields. SPI also provides training programs and an annual awards dinner honoring leaders in law enforcement professions.

“I congratulate Chief Monahan for his remarkable achievements for the good of public health and safety. It’s with heartfelt gratitude that I receive the Investigation Educator Award from SPI,” stated Ms. Hetherington. “For 20 years, I’ve had the honor to work with members of the Society and have learned so much from them. It’s been a privilege to share my cyber investigative skills through trainings on cyber security and fraud and the Dark Web, and I look forward to many more years of collaboration.”

Ms. Hetherington is committed to sharing knowledge and expertise. Since 1998, she has trained over 180,000 corporate security professionals, attorneys, accountants, auditors, military intelligence professionals, and federal, state, and local agencies in online intelligence practices. Her most recent clients include the U.S. Department Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC); U.S. Department of Defense (DOD); U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI); U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF); U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA); NY Mass Transit Authority, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; and The Ministry of Justice of The Hague, Netherlands.

Ms. Hetherington is a faculty member at the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, where she teaches a program on advanced Internet fraud investigations. Her webinars cover a wide range of topics including ethics, social media online monitoring tools, fraud, and open source intelligence searching; they provide new and seasoned investigators with Continuing Education Credits.

In 2015, Ms. Hetherington founded the OSMOSIS Institute, which hosts the annual OSMOSIS Conference. Hundreds of investigators across the nation gain insights into Open Source Intelligence and receive training from the most recognized social media and open source experts in North America.

About Hetherington Group

With over two decades of expertise, the Hetherington Group is a leader in investigative due diligence, corporate intelligence, and cyber investigations. Headquartered in Wanaque, New Jersey, Hg’s investigators and analysts track down and expose vital data on national and international investigations; train thousands of investigators in the public and private sectors annually; and share their expertise in this increasingly data-intensive, cyber focused-world through the publication of an Industry Newsletter and recognized investigative reference books. Hg is a certified National Women Business Owned Corporation, a certified Women’s Business Enterprise, a NJ Women Business Owned Corporation, and NY-NJ Port Authority Women-owned Business Enterprise.

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Opting Out in the Era of Data Breaches https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/opt-out-data-breach/ Tue, 17 Sep 2019 09:46:37 +0000 https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/?p=23301 For years, Hg investigators have been compiling a list of all the places your names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, and other personal data are stored online. There are over 200, and the list continues to grow. Whether you’re a cyber security professional scrubbing the web of your client’s personal information or wish to remove your own personal information, we’ve got you covered. In this blog post, we share with you three sites you can access and “Opt Out.”

People Background Check

People Background Check is a people search website that provides reports with personally identifiable information (aliases, address history, phone numbers, email addresses, age, and birth dates). Records go as far back as 1940 and offers daily updates. With claims of housing over 800 million records on 300 million people, it’s worth checking to see if your or your client’s data is on the site.

The website has a simple opt out process to remove personal information. Once the targeted profile is located, click on the setting (wheel) icon appearing on the right-hand side of the profile. This will bring you to a removal request box: Enter a name and email. Once submitted, a confirmation email will be sent to the email you provided with a link to confirm the information control request. Your information should then be removed from the website.

That’s Them

That’s Them publishes records for U.S. citizens based on public records. In That’s Them, we can search on street address, phone number, email address, IP address, and automobile VINs. Though not super current in its information, if you or your client has owned a vehicle or lived in a home more than five years, there will likely be a match to that record in the search results.

As this screengrab shows, additional information such as rankings for wealth score, donor score, shopping score, and others can also be obtained.

There is an opt out option on the page for easy removal from their database.

Vin.Place

Vin.Place aggregates new vehicle purchase information from dealerships and auto insurance companies.  Their free name or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) search reveals purchase information, including customer name and address as well as vehicle specifics such as year, make, and model. Free vehicle information can also be found on similar sites such as publicrecords.directory and thatsthem.com.

Want to remove yourself from Vin.Place? This Website offers an easy opt out process. To opt out, first find your record. Then, look for the link that states submit an opt-out request towards the bottom of the page. You can also visit vin.place/Optout.php.

 

 

Like what you’re reading? Become an Hg member and learn how to maximize your online investigations with shortcuts, tips, tricks, better investigative tools, and advanced research techniques for all skill levels in our Data2Know newsletter, published eight times a year. As an added benefit, subscribers get access to our Opt Out Index containing over 200 active links to assist you in getting your private data off the Internet. From Abika to ZoomInfo, we’ve got you covered!

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The Art & Science of Communication, Part 1 https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/art-science-communication-1/ Wed, 11 Sep 2019 09:31:53 +0000 https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/?p=23086 Listening Attentively & Playing Communication Chess

By William Majeski, LPI, Senior Advisor

Social media searches can be fruitful for the investigative researcher. Clues gained through open source techniques are often incredibly handy. An investigator can create serious leads to further an investigation and run analytical exercises to help reveal the greater or lesser results of your targeted goals. But overall, most online intelligence gathering is done in the pursuit of supporting the investigative interview. To have all the answers in-hand before you step into an interview’s conversation makes for a powerful advantage. Conversely, if you start a conversation without anticipating the answers or knowing what to expect, you can truly be taken off guard—to possibly disastrous results.

In this 3-part blog series, William Majeski, Hg’s Senior Advisor and investigator, explores the art and science of communication. As a seasoned investigator, I know when my limits are showing. It’s then that I lean on Majeski to review my findings and to start asking the hard questions. ~ Cynthia Hetherington

Throughout investigative history, one element has remained a constant: Skillful communication. The investigator’s ability to convey a message and successfully interact are fundamental to the investigative process. It will always be an essential ingredient in the formula that will achieve productive information and lead to successful outcomes. Any investigator with a solid foundation of sound investigative practices and exceptional communication skills will always find a resolution. This week we review the five strategic ways we can enhance our interview skills and focus specifically on Listening Attentively and Playing Communication Chess.

The Interview

The interview is the heart of an investigation, and skillful communication is its soul. It is a conversation with the purpose of gathering information; a process in which we deal with people, their thoughts, their actions, their reactions, and their emotions—none of which are always predictable. Ideally, we’d like our interviewing skills to be a masterful technique in which we can adjust to any interview regardless of the subject or the circumstances.

We can help achieve these goals by enhancing our performance skills in five strategic ways: Listening attentively, Observing body language, Understanding the power of body language, Playing communication chess, and Practicing pre-interview preparation.

Listening Attentively

In an interview, everyone hears the conversation, but few pay mindful attention to what is being said—and not being said. Some examples:

Poor Listeners: Prefer to not expend necessary energy to engage in the dialogue, and often do more talking than listening.

Indifferent Listeners: Developed a habit of tuning out too much information, and are easily distracted, losing the ability to focus on the discussion.

Good Listeners: Intensify their conscious level of concentration, listen vigilantly. Absorb, evaluate, and thoughtfully construct appropriate responses both verbally and non-verbally. Hear those almost imperceptible sound signals—often clues to unspoken information (change in rhythm/tone/pitch, a cracking voice, a sudden stutter/ stammer, hesitation, pause, and silence, etc.).

Attentive listening harvests useful information; capturing sound signals alerts us to potential clues of deception. When an escaped unconscious sound disrupts the consistency of the dialogue, the disruption often translates into a misrepresentation of what is being said. It is the unconscious sound in conflict with the conscious words.

Playing Communication Chess

We think faster than we speak and can evaluate as we listen. Take full advantage of this spare thinking time.

Think of a personal conversation—the outcome of which is very important. Think of the intensity of that conversation. In such a case, our natural abilities are heightened, using that spare thinking time to listen acutely and speak precisely; we listen, observe, anticipate, theorize, calculate, and conclude. We played Communication Chess. To intensify every interview, put a higher level of importance on the results.

With twenty years of global experience uncovering information on foreign business interests, small private companies, and backgrounding individuals and products, Hg’s expert advisers employ interviewing techniques that reveal far-reaching intelligence on hedge funds, private equities, and corporations; their principles, investment managers, and employees. Our interviews are conducted onsite and serially over a pre-determined period of time to probe leadership, the team, philosophical beliefs, tools, procedures, and systems. Learn how our team can help you mitigate risk at home and abroad.

 

Mr. William Majeski has been Senior Advisor and lead investigator on complex litigation matters to the Hetherington Group since 1998. A 21-year veteran of the New York City Police Department, Mr. Majeski provides security and investigative services to corporate, business, legal, and private clients. He has conducted thousands of interviews, polygraphs, and interrogations in his career. He is considered an expert on the subjects of communication and attentive listening.

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Unique Social Search Tools: Brand Protection Against the Trolling Customer https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/social-search-tools-3/ Tue, 03 Sep 2019 09:38:30 +0000 https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/?p=22549 By Cynthia Hetherington

New Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) tools pop up all the time. Keeping up with them is becoming a job in itself. Every research resource needs a regular review: Is it still offering up the best information for professional needs?

At Hg, we believe our effectiveness lies in continuing education. We keep up with new trends, new data security breaches, and new investigative tools and methodologies—and we share that knowledge with others. We do so in a variety of ways.

Hg’s Data2know.com newsletter includes Industry Undercover, where we discuss, in brief bits, newly discovered websites. We also review new OSINT tools on our blog. And, last but not least, we offer webinars and seminars to investigators, security professionals, attorneys, accountants, auditors, military intelligence professionals, and federal, state, and local agencies.

In this 3-part blog series, we highlight some of our favorite websites as well as some new sites that hit the Internet in the last year. Last week, we tackled Twitter, Reddit, and Snapchat and provided a Reddit tip on locating deleted content. This week we review Instagram search tools and review several OSINT tools to help monitor a client’s brand.

Instagram Master List

Instagram still has many users and fans—and more can be done with this resource than simply locating other Instagram sites. The Swiss consultancy, i-intelligence, has published the indispensable, The Open Source Intelligence Tools and Resources Handbook 2018, by Aleksandra Bielska, et al. With more than 300 pages, this OSINT resource guide covers every tool and resource imaginable.

When it comes to Instagram, pages 37 & 38 offer a good list of social media tools for Instagram.

Here is a tiny sampling:

In addition to the Handbook’s list, pay attention to the website imggram.com. It’s an independent viewer of Instagram photos and videos. Search by hashtag, user name, or keyword to locate accounts and posted content. It’s an excellent resource for finding local content fast.

Helpful Tip: Finding OSINT resource lists

Search for OSINT in any new OSINT tools. Such a search will produce the @i_intelligence online PDF and the OSINT Framework website produced by @jnordine. Follow these two on Twitter. Both organizations provide solid OSINT tools and collaboration, as well as excellent networking opportunities. OSINT members correspond and communicate openly—or try to impress with personal master lists—which offers up thousands of cutting edge, topical web links. OSINT resources come and go with the wind; this is an excellent way to stay current.

Another useful website for investigators is the dating app and hook-up site created by Emmanuelle Welch (@frenchpi on Twitter).

Tagboard, Talkwalker, & Boardreader

If the focus of a search is on following a brand, client, or topic, use the website Tagboard. Searches are based on hashtags and search across Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Flickr, and other social media websites. Simply enter a hashtag or keyword and search results are returned by the topic, brand, or event.

Talkwalker is a good tool to use for following a brand or a conversation, however, a log-in is necessary to see the most recent seven days of posts for free. Talkwalker analytical tools are excellent, and even short bursts of information can be collated quickly here.

Boardreader monitors the off-the-range message boards and has done so for years. Enter a search term and find a plethora of content on it: Brand failure messages, angry customer posts, conspiracy theorists, and the occasional hacker meeting announcement.

Are you an analyst or investigator looking for advanced training on unique social search tools? If so, check out Hg’s recorded webinar, Utilizing Social Media and Other Search Resources. This class expands your general knowledge of social media platforms and search engines, allowing you to create thorough reports for your clients.

 

With over twenty-five years of global experience in open source investigations and one of the first investigative firms to conduct online social media investigations, Hetherington Group develops advanced cyber investigations unique to your needs. Learn how Hg’s analysts conduct Cyber Investigations to clear through jargon and uncover answers buried deep in open sources, social media pages, and Dark Web sites.

 

Cynthia Hetherington, MLS, MSM, CFE, CII is the founder and president of Hetherington Group, a consulting, publishing, and training firm that leads in due diligence, corporate intelligence, and cyber investigations by keeping pace with the latest security threats and assessments. She has authored three books on how to conduct investigations, is the publisher of the newsletter, Data2know: Internet and Online Intelligence, and annually trains thousands of investigators, security professionals, attorneys, accountants, auditors, military intelligence professionals, and federal, state, and local agencies on best practices in the public and private sectors.

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An Interview with Cynthia Hetherington: How to Clean Up Your Digital Trail and Keep Data Off the Dark Web https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/pcmag-interview-cynthiahetherington/ Wed, 28 Aug 2019 18:24:10 +0000 https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/?p=22789 Looking for expert insight into the Dark Web, S. C. Stuart—award-winning digital strategist and technology commentator—interviews Hg’s Cynthia Hetherington in PC Magazine!

Read the full interview here.

 

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PolitWoops! When Politicians Delete Tweets … https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/politwoops/ Wed, 28 Aug 2019 14:43:52 +0000 https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/?p=22760 With the first Democratic presidential primary 6 months away, vast swaths of Americans are being bombarded with television ads and 24/7 news coverage in the highly contested race. While out on the campaign trail, reporters and opposition researchers alike will be scrutinizing candidates’ voting records, former employment, affiliations, and business dealings. In the era of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, what a candidate posts (or posted in the past) can also be placed under the microscope.

It’s hard to forget politicians of yesteryear whose own careers began to unravel after leaks of inappropriate social media content was shared with the public. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle one claims as home base, as evidenced by former Representatives Anthony Weiner (D) and Joe Barton (R) who got caught sending risqué photos through online apps. More recently, an Illinois State Representative faces revenge porn charges for distributing sexual photos of an ex-girlfriend on Instagram.

Social media can often make or break a campaign. It is not only important for politicians to be cautious of what they post during their campaign, but also of what they have posted on social media in years past. Investigators and journalists are diving deep into politicians’ social media accounts looking for discrepancies between past and current campaigning opinions, but what if the posts they are hoping to find have been deleted?

Politwoops, a product of ProPublica, tracks the deleted tweets of public officials—people currently in office and candidates running for office. Content is updated regularly. If a candidate is no longer running or an elected official is no longer in office, you can still see the deleted tweets up until the time they left the race or office.

Searching by name or topic will generate a list of twitter posts, including the handle, elected position and state, and political party. It will also note when the original tweet was posted and how many seconds, minutes, hours, days, or months lapsed before it was deleted. You can also narrow your search by choosing a specific state.

A search for “selfie,” for example, generated over 20 pages of tweets. With 20 tweets per page, that’s a lot of data to mine, so it’s recommended to narrow your search as much as you can by including additional information such as name and state.

In this case, you can see that Victoria Seaman, a former Republican member of the Nevada Assembly, is no longer being followed, because she no longer holds office. The post was deleted 2 hours after its initial post on April 10, 2018.

The other tweet, first posted by Debbie Lasko, an Arizona Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was deleted 35 weeks after it was originally posted on December 18, 2018.

 

 

Clicking on the “link” icon, will often offer more information about the deleted tweet. This tweet by Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, for example, was deleted and replaced with a second one—presumably due to the incomplete sentence in the first. Clicking on “the next tweet” will redirect you to his main Twitter account and the updated post.

Like what you’re reading? Become an Hg member and learn how to maximize your online investigations with shortcuts, tips, tricks, better investigative tools, and advanced research techniques for all skill levels in our Data2Know newsletter, published eight times a year. As an added benefit, subscribers get access to our Opt Out Index containing over 200 active links to assist you in getting your private data off the Internet. From Abika to ZoomInfo, we’ve got you covered!

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Unique Social Search Tools: TweetBeaver? Live & Historical Content Searches https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/social-search-tools-2/ Tue, 27 Aug 2019 09:26:06 +0000 https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/?p=22547 By Cynthia Hetherington

New Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) tools pop up all the time. Keeping up with them is becoming a job in itself. Every research resource needs a regular review: Is it still offering up the best information for professional needs?

At Hg, we believe our effectiveness lies in continuing education. We keep up with new trends, new data security breaches, and new investigative tools and methodologies—and we share that knowledge with others. We do so in a variety of ways.

Hg’s Data2know.com newsletter includes Industry Undercover, where we discuss, in brief bits, newly dis­covered websites. We also review new OSINT tools on our blog. And, last but not least, we offer webinars and seminars to investigators, security professionals, attorneys, accountants, auditors, military intelligence professionals, and federal, state, and local agencies.

In this 3-part blog series, we high­light some of our favorite websites as well as some new sites that hit the Internet in the last year. Last week, we reviewed several sites that allow you to track down your subject by using a nickname, cell phone, or email address. This week, we tackle Twitter, Reddit, and Snapchat and provide a Reddit tip on locating deleted content.

TweetBeaver

Any investigator can tell you: Twitter can be cumbersome to organize. One OSINT tool that should be on your radar is TweetBeaver. A few things to know up front: To use the service, you need to be logged into your own Twitter account. The site explains,“When you sign in, Twitter checks your credentials then passes access tokens to TweetBeaver to give you access. You can revoke access in the settings page of your Twitter account.”The site administrators also recommend using Chrome, Firefox, or Edge; you can use Internet Explorer to locate the site, but the formatting might be off.

With TweetBeaver, you can access a user’s friends list—downloadable in full-screen or CSV version. TweetBeaver is a good tool for connecting two parties; it allows you to see what public commu­nications might have gone on between them—even if that might have been five years prior. Other search functions include finding common followers of two accounts, searches within a user’s favorites, and finding common friends of two accounts.

TweetBeaver continues to add more tools. You can give feedback, suggestions, or ask a question by emailing hello@tweetbeaver.com or on Twitter @tweet_beaver

Reddit & Snapchat 

Last year, we wrote a blog series on how to use Reddit, a service seemingly underused by investigators. It is one of the few sites that doesn’t require users to sign in and register their true identities. Reddit delivers topics as subreddits, and authors as usernames—search for both in the large empty field at the top of the Reddit website. Look for new subred­dits on Reddit; it can offer enlightened information (leaked data, whistleblow­ing, disgruntled employees) on a client.

Helpful Tip: How to find deleted content on Reddit

Reddit aggregates users and matter by topic, in essence focusing a conversation, and it uses crowd sourcing for ranking. In a world of fake news, Reddit users are quick to flesh out the random miscellaneous stories from the real content. Users are able to post comments and delete them.

On her blog, Karrar Haider reviewed a variety of third-party tools available for reading deleted Reddit comments, noting that Ceddit is the fastest way to read deleted comments. It operates the same as Reddit, so there isn’t a tremendous learning curve, if you’re familiar with the original platform. The conversation feeds are the same as in Reddit, but Ceddit highlights the deleted comments in red. To read deleted comments in a specific post, replace the “r” in any Reddit URL with a “c,” and most all of the deleted comments will reappear.

Snapchat is billed as the private—yet fun—communication tool between friends, shared smartphone to smart­phone. The subject’s username must be added to the searcher’s profile list; most users find each other in Snapchat by trading usernames. A name cannot be added to Snapchat using an email address or a given (real) name. Snapchat does have open accounts, and those can be found via the follow­ing sites or apps.

Snapchat has some open accounts, which can be found on this website and Snapdex. Both of these search sites allow for searching by username, location, hashtag, or topic.

Use Snap Map to monitor a location for Snapchat activity—i.e., content—going on in that area. Upon locating an active account, an account’s Welcome photo and message may appear. If it does, copy the photo into the TinEye website or into the Google Images website, and the photo search will reveal if it appears anywhere else on the Internet. Note: If the account isn’t open, not much content will be returned from the search.

Are you an analyst or investigator looking for advanced training on unique social search tools? If so, check out Hg’s recorded webinar, Utilizing Social Media and Other Search Resources. This class expands your general knowledge of social media platforms and search engines, allowing you to create thorough reports for your clients.

 

With over twenty-five years of global experience in open source investigations and one of the first investigative firms to conduct online social media investigations, Hetherington Group develops advanced cyber investigations unique to your needs. Learn how Hg’s analysts conduct Cyber Investigations to clear through jargon and uncover answers buried deep in open sources, social media pages, and Dark Web sites.

 

Cynthia Hetherington, MLS, MSM, CFE, CII is the founder and president of Hetherington Group, a consulting, publishing, and training firm that leads in due diligence, corporate intelligence, and cyber investigations by keeping pace with the latest security threats and assessments. She has authored three books on how to conduct investigations, is the publisher of the newsletter, Data2know: Internet and Online Intelligence, and annually trains thousands of investigators, security professionals, attorneys, accountants, auditors, military intelligence professionals, and federal, state, and local agencies on best practices in the public and private sectors.

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Is it Legit? Verifying a Biz with a Name https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/dd-legit-biz-name/ Wed, 21 Aug 2019 09:21:23 +0000 https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/?p=22224 By Rachel Kronenfeld, Hg’s Manager of Investigations

In business, one often hears the classic query: “How did you hear about us?”  The ways in which people find a business have expanded over time, from word of mouth, the media, company websites, social media, or a phishing email. While all these forms of advertisement can be used to market a legitimate business, they can just as easily be used to market fraudulent businesses, even shell companies.

When a client comes to you wanting to know whether a business is legitimate, they may have an abundance of identifiers to provide you or maybe just a parcel of information, such as a friend’s recommendation, or a business card swapped on a flight between two seat mates. To help answer the questions about a real, or not real, enterprise, the investigative instinct is to gather more identifiers, ask more questions, and understand the purpose of the company for their investigation. Yet, sometimes that ready data isn’t available. To solve for lacking given information—and to stretch our critical research ability—we offer a fresh approach.

This approach reviews a variety of ways in which, despite being given limited information, you may be able to quickly determine if a company is a truly established business. Granted, when going into an investigation, the more information had ahead of time will allow for quicker fact checking. However, researchers are accustomed to working with little information, smaller budgets, and impossible deadlines.

In this 4-part series, we present four research routes when conducting due diligence investigations with little data on hand: Email, company website, social media, and business name. The following vet-by-data approach, handled by professionals, will give you an advantage to researching your client’s potential new lead. Last week we offered a Social Media checklist. This week, we provide the Business Name checklist to help you determine the possible legitimacy of a correspondence.

Business Name

Likely the most common identifier an investigator will receive is a business name. All businesses should be officially registered with local, state, or federal authorities. To determine if a business is registered, start by checking the Secretary of State filings if a United States company, or the equivalent, easily accessible public-record corporate registries if outside the United States. If a corporate registration search outside the United States is not a quick and easy one, you may choose to start your investigation elsewhere. If you are not sure in which state a U.S. company is registered, you can try some of the many free business search engines, such as www.opencorporates.com or www.corporationwiki.com, to get an idea.

If you do have an idea what state the company is in, check www.brbpublications.com and use its free search by state to locate the business filings. Don’t forget to consider fictitious business names. The name your client gave you is not necessarily the legal name of the company. Several states do have databases for searching fictitious business names, just one way to quickly determine the legal business name. If you can’t seem to find any business registration, additional due diligence can include searching the business with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or credit report companies, such as Dun & Bradstreet. Further, some industries have regulatory bodies which require them to have certain licenses or certifications—often of public record. Naturally, if you find the company is not registered with any of the above, they are not a legitimate business.

If you do find that the company is properly registered, additional due diligence is still highly recommended. Why? Because unfortunately we have all seen a business legally registered, but not legitimate. Legal companies—or perhaps only certain people employed with those companies—can very well still be fraudulent.

In Sum

When performing due diligence on company legitimacy, remember that some red flags, such as those discussed in this article, may be more conclusive than others. The email text reported by several others as being a scam, or the business located at an empty lot with no contact information are some examples. Other red flags are not as conclusive, such as the possible fake social media reviews and followers. Keep in mind that this method may not always work. When conducting any investigation, it is always best to have several key findings, or the same key finding across several sources, before conclusions are made. If you are allotted the proper amount of time to conduct your research, full due diligence is recommended, which would require a much deeper research dive. While investigators love having an abundance of information to work with, we should not become reliant on having access to this information. It is important to stop to think about all of the information you can obtain from one piece of information.

Are you an analyst or investigator looking for advanced training on due diligence? If so, check out Hg’s webinar series, where you can attend live sessions and receive CEUs or watch previously recorded sessions to beef up your OSINT skills.

 

Are you interested in working with a company but unsure if it’s legitimate? As veteran investigators in due diligence, Hg understands the business world and the legal and regulatory frameworks in which corporations and privately held companies operate. Our skilled analysts excel at exposing financial risks, reputational issues, criminal activity, and legal actions detrimental to your personal and business stability. Learn how our team can arm you with the data you need.

 

Rachel Kronenfeld joined Hetherington Group in 2016 and is Hg’s Manager of Investigations and lead investigator. As a skilled and diverse analyst, she monitors current events and information on the Internet, identifies security threats, and conducts online risk assessment analyses for Hg’s clients. Ms. Kronenfeld conducts trainings for investigators and is a contributing writer to Hg’s newsletter, Data2Know. Her professional research specialty is Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) techniques.

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Unique Social Search Tools: OSINT Tools for Deep Social Searches https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/social-search-tools-1/ Tue, 20 Aug 2019 09:08:33 +0000 https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/?p=22540 By Cynthia Hetherington

New Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) tools pop up all the time. Keeping up with them is becoming a job in itself. Every research resource needs a regular review: Is it still offering up the best information for professional needs?

At Hg, we believe our effectiveness lies in continuing education. We keep up with new trends, new data security breaches, and new investigative tools and methodologies—and we share that knowledge with others. We do so in a variety of ways.

Hg’s Data2know.com newsletter includes Industry Undercover, where we discuss, in brief bits, newly discovered websites. We also review new OSINT tools on our blog. And, last but not least, we offer webinars and seminars to investigators, security professionals, attorneys, accountants, auditors, military intelligence professionals, and federal, state, and local agencies.

In this 3-part blog series, we highlight some of our favorite websites as well as some new sites that hit the Internet in the last year. This week, we briefly enter the world of Google to find a user’s nickname and then slide into several sites that offer a broad array of intel on your subject. We also give you a tip on how to work around some of Facebook’s changes to its search functions.

Google

Google will always remain a go-to resource. Google allows for searching by a person’s name and quickly organizes all the social media sites in the top ten responses. The returned list of results will likely include LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at the top. Using the Twitter and Instagram matches will help capture the user’s nickname.

Namechk & PeekYou

Once the target’s nickname has been discovered, use Namechk and partner PeekYou to return further results. Each of these services covers a wide variety of social media platforms, matching the searched nickname against the list of known users and reporting the findings. Namechk is a bit inelegant in its presentation, offering up a grid of green- and greyed-out buttons, but the results are solid. PeekYou is pretty and offers email address matches in its results—a handy resource that quickly locates data. Combining both websites returns a good collection of popular and not-so-popular websites the searched subject is registered with. Namechk and PeekYou are free and don’t require login or registration.

PIPL & yasni

If searching within Google—or within namechk or PeekYou, for that matter—doesn’t produce the target user, then next try searching in PIPL and yasni. These two services allow for searching by a person’s name and location. The search can be a bit cumbersome (taking extra time to verify if Bob Smith in Detroit is indeed the intended Bob Smith), but they are good, free, more targeted search resources.

TinEye & Google Images

Once a target’s profile is located, use parts of it to find the target’s other social media accounts. The headshot used for a social media profile—especially on LinkedIn—is often reused in other sites. Copy the target’s headshot and drag it to TinEye and Google Images to see what other websites the subject subscribes to and participates in.

Alternatively, search directly in any social media platforms for the subject by name, nickname, cell phone number, and email address. Note that after the Cambridge Analytics fallout, searching by cell phone number and email address on Facebook is no longer possible.

Helpful Tip: Finding intel on Facebook with a cell number or email

You can still use Facebook Messenger to search by cell phone number and/or email address. You can also conduct a backwards search.

Go to Google and perform a site search by typing in:

site:facebook.com ch@hetheringtongroup.com

site:facebook.com 973 706 7525

Both searches will return rich results and works beyond a social media site search. For example—site:hetheringtongroup.com Kronenfeld—results for Hetherington Group’s lead analyst and manager of investigations, Rachel Kronenfeld, will be returned.

Are you an analyst or investigator looking for advanced training on unique social search tools? If so, check out Hg’s recorded webinar, Utilizing Social Media and Other Search Resources. This class expands your general knowledge of social media platforms and search engines, allowing you to create thorough reports for your clients.

 

With over twenty-five years of global experience in open source investigations and one of the first investigative firms to conduct online social media investigations, Hetherington Group develops advanced cyber investigations unique to your needs. Learn how Hg’s analysts conduct Cyber Investigations to clear through jargon and uncover answers buried deep in open sources, social media pages, and Dark Web sites.

 

Cynthia Hetherington, MLS, MSM, CFE, CII is the founder and president of Hetherington Group, a consulting, publishing, and training firm that leads in due diligence, corporate intelligence, and cyber investigations by keeping pace with the latest security threats and assessments. She has authored three books on how to conduct investigations, is the publisher of the newsletter, Data2know: Internet and Online Intelligence, and annually trains thousands of investigators, security professionals, attorneys, accountants, auditors, military intelligence professionals, and federal, state, and local agencies on best practices in the public and private sectors.

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Is it Legit? Verifying a Biz with Social Media https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/dd-legit-social-media/ Wed, 14 Aug 2019 09:07:10 +0000 https://www.hetheringtongroup.com/?p=22232 By Rachel Kronenfeld, Hg’s Manager of Investigations

In business, one often hears the classic query: “How did you hear about us?”  The ways in which people find a business have expanded over time, from word of mouth, the media, company websites, social media, or a phishing email. While all these forms of advertisement can be used to market a legitimate business, they can just as easily be used to market fraudulent businesses, even shell companies.

When a client comes to you wanting to know whether a business is legitimate, they may have an abundance of identifiers to provide you or maybe just a parcel of information, such as a friend’s recommendation, or a business card swapped on a flight between two seat mates. To help answer the questions about a real, or not real, enterprise, the investigative instinct is to gather more identifiers, ask more questions, and understand the purpose of the company for their investigation. Yet, sometimes that ready data isn’t available. To solve for lacking given information—and to stretch our critical research ability—we offer a fresh approach.

This approach reviews a variety of ways in which, despite being given limited information, you may be able to quickly determine if a company is a truly established business. Granted, when going into an investigation, the more information had ahead of time will allow for quicker fact checking. However, researchers are accustomed to working with little information, smaller budgets, and impossible deadlines.

In this 4-part series, we present four research routes when conducting due diligence investigations with little data on hand: Email, company website, social media, and business name. The following vet-by-data approach, handled by professionals, will give you an advantage to researching your client’s potential new lead. Last week we offered a Company Website checklist. This week, we provide the Social Media checklist to help you determine the possible legitimacy of a correspondence.

Social Media

Searching social media is a common method for someone to find a business or to be contacted by one. If your client comes to you with only a social media profile for the company, here are a few quick vetting tips. Similar across many social media platforms is the ability to see followers. At first glance, having a large amount of followers creates the appearance that the company is established. However, an investigator should look at who those followers actually are. If they appear to be bots, or people from across various industries which do not really relate to the business, these are indicators that the company does not have the credibility you may have thought. Another tip is to check to see who is talking about the business on that platform. The business may be making claims of success and a great reputation, but not a single person outside their profile is mentioning them. This can be yet another red flag.

If you were given a company page from Facebook, Facebook includes a section for reviews. Check to see if there are business reviews for the company. If there are no reviews or ratings for the business, this is an anomaly. A legitimate company marketing on social media will always have some reviews or ratings, unless perhaps the company page was just recently created. If they do have reviews, read them to determine if they appear legitimate. There are some common indicators to determine if reviews are fake, such as questionable names with stock photos, common use of first-person singular, references to other people, or simply reviews that sound like a marketing brochure. Beyond reviews, you can also search for any employees who work for the business. LinkedIn is a common place for employees to add their company to their profile. If you cannot locate any employees or former employees that worked for the company, this may be questionable and require additional research.

Are you an analyst or investigator looking for advanced training on due diligence? If so, check out Hg’s webinar series, where you can attend live sessions and receive CEUs or watch previously recorded sessions to beef up your OSINT skills.

 

Are you interested in working with a company but unsure if it’s legitimate? As veteran investigators in due diligence, Hg understands the business world and the legal and regulatory frameworks in which corporations and privately held companies operate. Our skilled analysts excel at exposing financial risks, reputational issues, criminal activity, and legal actions detrimental to your personal and business stability. Learn how our team can arm you with the data you need.

 

Rachel Kronenfeld joined Hetherington Group in 2016 and is Hg’s Manager of Investigations and lead investigator. As a skilled and diverse analyst, she monitors current events and information on the Internet, identifies security threats, and conducts online risk assessment analyses for Hg’s clients. Ms. Kronenfeld conducts trainings for investigators and is a contributing writer to Hg’s newsletter, Data2Know. Her professional research specialty is Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) techniques.

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