OSINT, Search Tools & Search Tip Roundup

Posted on 19 July 2011 by


Over the past two weeks – in fact since March – we’ve been talking a lot about search, specifically how law enforcement and analysts can use open sources to enhance their understanding of a given issue or target. This article is a roundup, and some new stuff to help cops and analysts search for things.

To recap, Eric Olson recently wrote about Google search limitations and how to work around them.  I wrote about searching social media and better ways to use Google for law enforcement officers and intelligence analysts. And earlier posts have covered Cyber tools for law enforcement, and as important, the top 5 things that law enforcement agencies must do to secure their networks from intruders.

By the way, if these posts are helping you, please spread the word online: we need more people to read us to make this continue to be worth our while! Send notes and links to your favorite mailing list to turn people on to the site! Comment using our comment form below.

All this stuff is very important to us to grow the site and justify the time we spend on it, so we appreciate the interaction, feedback and especially the kind words.

We’ll continue to do this stuff. Here is a little guide to what we’ve done so far:

Some of these we have spoken of previously and some are new. We spoke about Kurrently, which is a social media search tool, as well as others including Who’s Talkin, which I highly recommend because it searches 60 social media gateways and has an easy-to-use API, making it possible to include results of the search right in your intelligence console (if you’ve got one).

Other Social Media Search
Another tool we spoke of recently is socialmention, which searches 91. We also discussed PasteLert, which allows you to set up Google-type alerts so that when your search string appears on a pastebin, you get an email. We did not mention in that piece good old Google alerts, which allow you to set up alerts for content appearing on the web as indexed by Google. Our friend Mike recommends as well to look at Addictomatic.com which lets you build newspaper-like pages of content to your liking or interest; SamePoint.com, which helps individuals and companies understand and manage their reputations. Type your name into it, or that of your agency, and you’ll see it at work.

BlogPulse.com is something extra special. This is a search engine focusing on blogs and it provides a great deal of analysis right off the bat in terms of trending topics in the blogosphere. However it can also powerfully search blog postings for an array of interesting things. Go there and type in some keywords related to a crime you’re interested in and watch the fun start.

Google Insights
One fantabulously outrageously wonderful resource for meta search is Google Insights, which allows you to search what people are searching for at Google. You can look at trends and clusters of search terms versus other search terms, and look at them through the prism of geography or time; you can look at search terms entered into Web search, images, products or news. It’s a powerful tool with some important limitations – the data is aggregated and anonymized and is by no means complete: for example, as Google says,

…it only shows results for search terms that receive a significant amount of traffic, and enforces minimum thresholds for inclusion in the tool.

Dragon Newsbytes
One fantastic resource is Dragon Newsbytes. We’ve spoken in the past about Team Cymru; Cymru hosts a security news mailing list called Ian’s Dragon Newsbytes. If you’ve ever wondered how it is that we at PLI end up getting access to all this wonderful and obscure stuff, know that we rely on Ian and his DNB team to provide us with boatloads of data each day. And they do. We cannot recommend this enough. The list is private and members are vetted carefully; if you want to subscribe please email outreach [@] cymru.com from a work email address, and they’ll start the process.

Oh, one more thing on that: Dragon Newsbytes is free.

Those looking for a news aggregation and analysis site need look no further than Silobreaker, which does for news what Blogpulse does for blogs, and then some.

Other Recent Search Posts on PLI
More Search-fu for Intelligence and Law Enforcement from Eric Olson
In a nutshell, this piece says:

  1. There’s a lot of stuff that isn’t in Google or Yahoo and they’re easy to hide from.
  2. The stuff that is in there is only accessible up to about the 700th result.
  3. The 700 that are both actually in Google and in the top 700 you get to see are chosen by popularity. This is a terrible prioritization scheme if what you are looking for or care about is not likely to be, or meant to be, found or popular.

Well, that all kind of sucks. So what can we do?

Social Media Search Tips for Cops & Law Enforcement Analysts
Yesterday I posted to the IACA list a link to Kurrently, a real-time search engine for Facebook and Twitter, and I was really surprised at the number of people who emailed me off-list saying that they’d been looking for something like this for a long time.

This makes me realize that it’s time we listed some resources on search for law enforcement types, and specifically, some tips and tricks and resources for cops and analysts looking to search social media sites.

This is by no means an exhaustive list – in fact we’re barely scratching the surface.