Part 6: OSINT to find people
Use this article as a handy list for you as a starting point for conducting online investigations or research. It is a task for any OSINT investigator to remember which tools can be used when so my advice to you is to allow yourself to play around with the ones listed here. After that, when you feel that you are comfortable with the results the tools bring to you, bookmark those, I usually save it into an OSINT folder on my desktop. Maybe, create an excel sheet once you know the basics of these tools.
An example will help
I will explain this article by using my own example. Let us look for Dr Malvika Mehta, intelligence says that her second name is Muskaan. Location: India. What else do you know about her? Let’s break it down and identify the possible combinations:
First Name: Malvika
Second Name: Muskaan
Family Name: Mehta
Designation/ Profession: Doctor
Assuming the gender: Female
Initially, we need to find out the contact information, after that we can link it ahead to find other strings attached. There are other ways to depict this flowchart too, sometimes we may find a social media account and in that case we will reverse engineer and trace it back. Hence, goal setting is essential (figure 6).
Figure 6: Creating a mind map for your goals and how you are going to achieve them.
Name combinations that can be associated:
Dr Malvika Mehta
Dr Muskaan Mehta
Muskaan (Malvika) Mehta
Malvika (Muskaan) Mehta
Perform a general google search and see what results come up
Conduct a search for all the possible combinations.
Try searching “Dr Malvika Mehta, India; Dr Muskaan Mehta, India etc.” If you feel then even try to create nick names with the existing ones, for example: Muskaan can be also referred as Muski, Musku. Malvika can be referred to Malu and so on. But this is at a later stage, we do not need to do that now.
Next, think on which kind of a Doctor is this individual? Is it from a PhD? Or does the individual hold MBBS, BAMS, BHMS, BUMS or other related degrees? Narrow your search and identify at least 10 possibilities of suspected profiles this name would have.
The data these tools offer also differ from country to country for example: Ancestry is US based, Canada 411 is for Canada (table 4).
People Investigation tools:
Table 4: List of search tools that can help in finding people online.
Social Media Search Then conduct a social media search, be aware of leaking out your own identity as well as alerting the searched individual. There are several People Investigation tools available, most of them are paid while some offer limited trials. These tools collaboratively search for social media accounts, personal information, images and other publicly available resources. You can search using name, location, email id and contact number.
Task for this session: There are many sites which offer criminal search and background search too, identify those and add them to your list. Don’t forget to share them with me!
Author's Note: These tools can be useful for HR's who wish to conduct a simple background search for their candidates, good for individuals who are looking for relationship and matrimony. Suitable for Intelligence gathering and Criminal Investigation.
Dr Malvika Mehta (ACSFS) (MSc) (BAMS) Forensic Investigator, Consultant, Trainer & Independant Expert Witness, OSINT specialist, Forensics course designer