Whenever an investigation begins it is only natural to jump on the Internet and do a Web search for any relevant material that is publicly available.
The Web is an ideal starting point, but there are many more data sources available to intrepid investigators. In this blog we will look at five ways to garner more information for an investigation, and how the results will help you deliver a more comprehensive result.
1. Specialist Web search engines
When people search the Internet they think of Google, but there are many more specialist search engines which focus on certain niches, or verticals.
These include alternative general search engines and forums and portals which focus on specific topics. Your investigation might relate to the aviation sector, so log onto aviation forums and look (and ask) for information which might be helpful.
There are also many localised search engines which focus on particular geographies, which could help your investigation if there are elements relating to non-English speaking regions.
2. Social networks
Your investigative work is made easier if the people you are investigating are happy to share their private live with the world.
A person’s profile can be reviewed and information can be gathered from it, and from there it will depend on how it fits into the wider case and whether it can be used to bolster the investigative process.
Like search engines, the Web is awash with social networks of all shapes and sizes. Facebook won the war for the most popular social network, but again there are plenty of niche options to include in your investigative work.
Take the time to look at any niche social networks which might give new light to the investigation.
Some OSINT providers will perform detailed social media searches for you, and Polonious integrates with a number of leading providers.
3. Government databases
In addition to open data sources like search engines and social networks, there are more shielded information repositories, such as government-controlled databases which can be used during an investigation.
These databases house public records, but often require some form of application or payment to be searched.
Examples include company records; births, deaths and marriages; estates and wills; and other regulated industry data. If the case involves a criminal or civil court matter, then there will be records available for searching.
Such data can give your investigation the boost it needs by revealing interests and relationships not contained in public repositories.
The person you are investigating might be very private, but their associates might not be.
Today’s connected Web can reveal a lot about a person, even if they didn’t consent to having the information about them shared.
By using a combination of search, social and other data sources your investigation can easily reveal a lot about a person, or organisation, by proxy.
Including relations and associates is now an important factor in getting the most amount of information available.
5. Work history
Another source of information for your investigation is work history. Like government data, this might not be immediately available for free, but can be sourced specialist sources such as financial records.
LinkedIn is the go-to social network for professionals and from there someone’s work history can be investigated.
While looking into work history, don’t forget co-workers. People who have worked together know a lot about each other and this information can be readily shared online.
The amount of open source information available to investigation teams extends well beyond a regular Google search. Look at the numerous free and paid-for data sources which might give your investigation the edge.
There are also support services available which focus on the many different databases containing personal information.