Document Scanning with Smart Phones

It is now common practice to take pictures of computer screens, record books, and documents during our research expeditions. I am certain that you want to do the same. Here is a list of scanning applications that may help with your quest for the ideal scanning app:

  • Genius Scan for ios. This app turns phone/tablet into PDF scanner w/Dropbox/GDrive integration.
  • CamScanner for Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone 8
  • Tiny Scanner allows you to create PDF documents with multiple scans. Scans are saved to your phone as images or PDFs. For Android, iPhone and both free and pro versions exist.
  • Scannable from Evernote. Requires iOS 8.0 or later and compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Beware, scans are only saved to your device for 30 days unless you disable this in the “Advanced” settings.

All of the above will create a PDF of the scanned content. The next post will offer a solution to indexing the PDF files to make them searchable.

Privacy Settings for Firefox–History

By default, Firefox remembers your browsing history to make it easier to return to a visited site.

Select Options and then Privacy in the left hand navigation panel. Under History, open the drop-down menu labeled “Firefox will:”and tell the browser to never remember your history or use custom settings.

Selecting “Always use private browsing mode,” is for hardcore privacy, but you need to understand the implications of private browsing mode. See the Mozilla’s support pages for more information on this.

Here are the History settings that I suggest.

Uncheck the box for remembering your browsing and download history, un-check remembering search and form history, and leave the box checked for “Accept cookies from sites.” Then under “Accept third-party cookies” set it as Never, but change “Keep until:” I close Firefox. Finally check the box that says “Clear history when Firefox closes.”

This combination of settings allows Firefox to behave normally, but erases most of your activity upon closing the browser. These settings provide some measure of privacy without sacrificing functionality.

Privacy Settings for Firefox–Tracking

Firefox is the best browser for protecting your data. However, Firefox does require several setting adjustments to avoid intrusive tactics like ad tracking.

Select Options and then Privacy in the left hand navigation panel.

By default, Firefox does not enable the do-not-track feature. Turn it on by selecting “Request that sites not track you.” Also select “Use Tracking Protection in Private Windows”, which enables tracking protection that blocks ads and other online trackers when you’re in private browsing mode. However, few sites honor this request.

To enforce your do-not-track intentions, you need to use an add-on such as Ghostery, Disconnect, or the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Privacy Badger. We have found that some sites do not to allow access to content with add-ons like these enabled.

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?

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.

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.

Saving Bozo Eruptions

I normally suggest using the WayBack Machine to preserve Bozo Eruptions, but there is another way to do this.

Archive.is takes a ‘snapshot’ of a webpage that will always be online even if the original page disappears. It saves both text and a graphical copy of the page for better accuracy. Saved pages will have no active elements and no scripts, to guard agianst malware. However, the stored page with all images must be smaller than 50Mb. Pages which violate our hoster’s rules (cracks, porn, etc) may be deleted.

Bear in mind that when you archive a page, your IP is being sent to the the website you archive.

This site also shortens URLs of what you archive much like tinyurl, goo.gl and bit.ly do and only supports search by URLs and domains as in the Google or Bing site: command.

A handy bookmarklet button for your toolbar is offered on the site.

When things get complex

Advangle helps you build complex web-search queries in Google and Bing.

You can quickly build a query with multiple parameters (such as the ‘domain’, ‘language’ or ‘date published’) and immediately see the result of this query in Google or Bing search engines. Any condition in a query can be temporarily disabled without removing it to allow you to try several combinations of different conditions and choose the one that works best.

A reddit Barometer

Reddit is an entertainment, social networking, and news website where registered users submit content, such as text posts or direct links. This makes it a large online bulletin board.

Users vote submissions up or down to organize the posts and determine their position on the site’s pages. Content is organized by areas of interest called “subreddits”. The subreddit topics include news, gaming, movies, music, books, fitness, food, and photosharing, among many others.

For the investigator, reddit is a good barometer of the user’s interests, attitudes, and popularity. If you want to see the user’s barometer, SnoopSnoo provides reddit user and subreddits analytics.

On SnoopSnoo, the user analytics are computed by analyzing submissions and comments activity. Analysis is limited to the 1,000 most recent comments and submissions due to reddit’s API restrictions. The subreddits are automatically assigned topics by an algorithm. Subreddits with fewer than 1,000 subscribers or created within the last 30 days may not have been processed.

Turn Your PC into an iPhone

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.

The User Agent Switcher extension 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.