De-Constructing Myths

Myths, rumors, urban legends, disinformation, and propaganda get amplified by the all-pervasive Internet and its trolls. Sometimes, this deluge of twaddle causes people who should know better to waste time, energy, and resources needlessly. Sometimes, it inspires a popular TV show like the MythBusters.

Urban legends and the related types of false information can cause problems in even the most well managed security operation. All it takes is one senior executive or official to believe something nonsensical and lend his authority to it. This may lead to money wasted on useless equipment and programs.

Fake Bomb-Detector

My first-hand experience with this problem includes a fake bomb detecting device that I later encountered as a detector of hidden ivory. This ludicrous device started as a fraudulant detector of lost golf balls. This scam lasted for years and made millions from sales across several continents.

I was suspicious of its use at a security checkpoint and managed to examine a unit and then do some research. Apparently, nobody else thought to do the same, even though lives were at stake.

Human Trafficking

An enduring myth exists that legions of prostitutes from all over the world descend on major events. This pernicious myth usually focuses on sporting events and it usually tries to link any masculine pursuit with human trafficking.

A version of this surfaced in 1998 when Jim Brown, the parliamentary assistant to Ontario Solicitor-General, Bob Runciman and one of Ontario`s Crime Commissioners, was forced to resign after he said Toronto’s Santa Claus parade gave fathers a chance to slip away and visit prostitutes. Senior police officers jeered at this idiocy.

More recently, this was supposed to occur at the World Cup, Vancouver Winter Olympics and at the US Football Super Bowl in February 2016.

The current trend is to equate the commercial sex trade with human trafficking. There are differences between women trafficked into prostitution, local sex workers, and those who migrate to other countries for work. However, irrational activists argue that large groups of men at sporting events result in increased demand for commercial sex that only trafficked women can meet.

On closer examination, every study I read revealed a large discrepancy between claims made before large sporting events and the actual number of resulting trafficking cases. I found no evidence that large sporting events cause an increase in trafficking for prostitution. Reputable anti-trafficking organisations, sex workers rights organisations, and  many neutral researchers and observers also refute this claim.

Yet despite the lack of evidence, this urban legend persists. It persists due to the large number of militant reformers, politicians, and journalists who profit from it. This urban legend provides inexpensive fundraising and publicity for agendas that include misandry, prostitution abolition, halting immigration, and exaggerating foreign threats.

This sensationalism breeds a waste of limited resources. For example, the airports at San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose and underwent training to spot victims of trafficking in advance of the Super Bowl. Would you like to guess how many trafficked women they found?

Twitter Yearly Search

Have you ever needed to get all the Tweets from a subject during a specified time like everything in 2014?

When doing this type of search, first find the user’s first Tweet. You may do this by going to the Discover your first Tweet page and enter the users name and you will get the first Tweet and its date.

To search a full year’s Tweets isn’t difficult. Just go to the Twitter search box and enter the following:

from:user name w/0 @ since:2014-01-01 until:2014-12-31

The date format must be yyyy-mm-dd. Of course, you may enter any data range. You may also use the Twitter Advanced Search.

CPIC only reports indictable and hybrid offences

Canadian Police Information Centre

In Canada, a criminal record is a documented guilty conviction with registration of the offenders name in CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre).

CPIC Content

“Canada’s repository of criminal records relates to individuals that have been charged with indictable and/or hybrid offences. Since the Identification of Criminals Act only allows the taking of fingerprints in relation to indictable or hybrid offences, and the RCMP National Repository of Criminal Records is fingerprint-based, the National Repository only contains information relating to these two categories of offences. Summary conviction offences are only included in the National Repository if submitted as part of an occurrence involving an indictable or hybrid offence.” [source: rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/dissemination-criminal-record-information-policy  (20 Jan 16)]

Hybrid Offences

Hybrid Offences or Dual-Procedure Offences may proceed as either summary conviction offences or indictable offences. The Crown chooses the mode of prosecution but usually prosecutes the less serious of these as summary conviction offences. The crown may proceed on the hybrid offences as more serious indictable offences when the  circumstances make the crime more serious.

Verbatim

In Google, Verbatim is not a command. If Google misbehaves by including strange terms that have nothing to do with your search statement, or if the search results entirely ignore some of your seach terms, then apply Verbatim to the search results by selecting ‘Search tools’, then ‘All results’  and  finally ‘Verbatim’.  Doing this will force Google to search on all of your terms without dropping any or looking for variations and synonyms.

Phone Numbers on the Web

The Phone Archive  says it searches USA based phone numbers usages and context snippets on webpages and documents found on the Web. This is operated by the same folks that run The Email Archive that I found less that useful earlier this week. This site is much more useful.

While they advertise this as searching US based phone numbers I found it useful for finding references to any phone number in the NA numbering plan. I found numbers in Canadian, Panama, and Caribbean islands.

I haven’t compared results to the large search engines, but this is a useful resource.

Google-Free Wednesday–Alternatives to Google Services

Perhaps it is time to remind folks that there are alternatives to Google services that are more respectful to your privacy:

  • Startpage.com for searches
  • Duck Duck Go which does not record your search history
  • Disconnect Search is a specialized VPN that lets you search privately using Google, Bing, and Yahoo search engines. No logging of searches, IP addresses, or any other personal info.
  • mailbox.org for email (see The Great Google Escape)
  • Startmail.com for e-mail (a bit more expensive that mailbox.org)
  • Omnicloud from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, which allows you to encrypt all data locally before uploading it to the cloud.

Many Vloggers are now scrambling for alternatives because they find themselves at risk of having their YouTube account terminated on a whim. You could be next in this distrubing trend.

Finding E-mail Addresses

Finding email addresses and connecting them to a specific person has become a fundemental research task. However, to make connections between a specific person and other things of interest, you first must have an email address.

A new source for this data has appeared and it is called The Email Archive.  It advertises that it searches email address usages and context snippets on webpages/documents. However, when I search my name I get nothing. When I search an email address that is all over our sites, I get nothing. I noticed that this seems to only focus on USA related data.

Web Proxies & User Agents

A web proxy provides an easy way to change your IP address while surfing the Internet. They don’t require software or modification to your networking settings.  You just enter a website address and the sites you visit through the proxy see an IP address belonging to the proxy rather than your IP address.

I am very cautious about using web proxies as you never know who actually operates it and what data they might collect as you use it. You also don’t know  to whom they might give that data. On the other hand, I have found one that has a useful feature.

nroxy offers all the usual web proxy features plus something interesting–it offers the ability to change the user agent.  For example, some web sites cannot be viewed properly using Firefox. Sometimes it is an old site that requires MS Internet Explorer (IE) or it may be a site designed for mobile devices. This proxy offers user agents typical of 5 mobile devices and a long list of browsers.

To get the information I need I am finding it necessary to switch user agents more often. Usually, I use the User Agent Switcher extension that adds a menu and a toolbar button to switch the user agent of a browser. It allows you to chose from three versions of IE or an iPhone. Selecting the iPhone user agent often reveals additional  functionality on the site. The extension is available for Firefox and will run on any platform that this browser supports including Windows, OS X and Linux.

Now I have another option when I need to change the user agent and I get the additional proxy features as well.

The Darknet & Freenet

Freenet is like BitTorrent with web sites. Freenet is an anonymous peer-to-peer data-sharing network where uploaded data is assigned a unique key then broken-up into small, encrypted chunks which are then scattered across multiple computers on the network.

When someone wants a document, photograph or some other data, they “fetch” it from the network using the unique key assigned to that data. The fetch requests get routed through intermediary computers that don’t house the requested data, This ensures that no single computer on the network knows the contents of any individual data file.

With the Freenet client running on your PC, you can use most Web browsers to browse files and websites (AKA freesites) on the Freenet. The client allows you to access the Freenet welcome page (http://127.0.0.1:8888/) using your normal browser. From this welcome page, you can move on to browse Freenet, chat on Freenet forums, and communicate with other Freenet users.

Freenet has a darknet mode (AKA friends-only mode) for maximum privacy. In darknet mode, you connect to Freenet through trusted associates with whom you exchange encryption keys, which makes it difficult for anyone to track your movements on Freenet or even that you’re using Freenet. Of course, funneling your Freenet access through a handful of trusted associates may create a traffic bottleneck that slows response times. To avoid this, get five or ten friends to join up with you so you can fetch Freenet websites and files at greater speed.

Don’t expect this to provide total anonymity if you are doing something that is illegal or a risk to national security. Freenet has been infiltrated by police agencies that have created their own Freenet nodes to deanonymize users. You can be certain that national intelligence agencies have done the same.

Darknet Proxy

Normally,  you must connect to the underground network known as the darknet by using the Tor browser to view pages hosted there. I recently found a new way to view pages without the need for the TOR browser. It’s a free service called Tor2Web.

As an example, the DuckDuckGo page on the TOR network is https://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/. If you try this in your noraml browser, you won’t get anything as this requires use of the Tor browser to connect to the server. If you go to Tor2Web and insert the above link you will connect through the Tor2Web proxy. This is is a pure proxy that forwards requests to the hidden service. Alternatively, you can just add .to to the address of the hidden service as in https://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion.to/.

The Tor2Web site warns that it cannot offer any anonymity for the visitor., saying “both onion.to and the hidden service itself can see the visitor’s IP address, and use browser fingerprinting to track users across different sessions.” However, Tor isn’t as anymous as you might think even when you use the Tor browser.

For something that doesn’t require anonymity this is a quick and simple solution.

Cyotek WebCopy

Cyotek WebCopy is a free tool for copying full or partial websites locally onto your harddisk for offline viewing. Links to resources such as stylesheets, images, and other pages in the website will automatically be remapped to match the local path.

Unfortunately, if a website makes heavy use of JavaScript to operate, it is unlikely WebCopy will be able to make a true copy if it is unable to discover all of the website due to JavaScript being used to dynamically generate links. WebCopy does not download the raw source code of a web site, it can only download what the HTTP server returns. While it will do its best to create an offline copy of a website, advanced data driven websites may not work as expected once they have been copied.

While it has some significant limitations, it is still useful for Investigative Internet Research.

National Missing and Unidentified Persons System

If you are looking for someone in the USA and cannot find anything, you might want to look at NamUS.

According to the site, “the National Institute of Justice’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a national centralized repository and resource center for missing persons and unidentified decedent records. NamUs is a free online system that can be searched by medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement officials and the general public from all over the country in hopes of resolving these cases.”