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.
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.
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.
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.