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 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 [email protected]
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.