The browser is the most used outward facing software you will use. It interacts with suspect web sites and other internet sites. Firefox is still my first choice for security and plug-ins, even though Chrome offers a speed advantage that adds-up over the course of many hours of research, while this little problem makes me avoid MS Internet Explorer: Microsoft warns of critical IE9, IE10 zero-day-Just visit the wrong web site and get remote-code execution.
In Firefox, go to Tools>Add-ons>Plugins and set the Java Script and Toolkit to Ask to Activate. I also set all the other plugins to Ask to Activate as well. This prevents a plugin from activating at the wrong time and thereby sending out data to the site that caused it to activate. A malicious site may activate a plugin to have it to transmit data that can be used to thwart your investigation.
Third party cookies compile a long-term record of your browsing history. This is dangerous as it can reveal what you are investigating. In Options>Privacy>History select Never for third party cookies. In my sandbox, I have several versions of the browser with different settings. For example, I prefer to never accept cookies of any kind, but some sites need them to function so I have a version with normal cookies enabled.
To create my everyday fortress Firefox, I use the following:
For more anonymity, privacy, and security, I do the following to my instance:
- To preserve privacy, I use a VPN.
- To preserve anonymity, I use Tor to connect to an anonymous VPN.
- To maintain security, I work from a Virtual Machine hosted by a different OS on a clean machine.
If you aren’t doing the same, then you don’t know what is on your PC and what it might be doing to work against you. There are a lot of bad actors out there trying to insinuate malware onto as many machines as possible. If you are using your PC to gather evidence, malware can destroy the integrity of everything you collect.
Conducting Investigative Internet Research is not as easy as it might seem. There is more to it than doing a few poorly structured Google searches. You need to understand how to create a clean machine that will pass muster under S. 31 Canada Evidence Act. You must prevent all your research, and your identity, from ending-up in the hands of the very people that you are investigating. This happens. I have to believe that it happens often but isn’t recognised by most investigators. Would you know if your machine had a trojan like FinSpy? Do you know how to prevent the installation of something like FinSpy? Do you know how to get rid of it?
If you frequent bad internet neighbourhoods, then you will encounter bad people doing bad things, and they will try to do bad things to you.
The online exif viewer at www.gbimg.org has a lot of widgets on it.
My last discovery was the Exif site at http://www.findpicturelocation.com. Just upload the picture and it will show the location where it was taken. It only works with .jpg or .tif files. You must upload the image to the site, so who knows where it might end-up. This uses the Google API for the mapping. Not all pictures have the GPS coordinates in them.
Your search and browsing behaviour allows Google to personalise your search results. To escape this filtering of your results use a private browser window called incognito as it is called in Chrome. Google will then ignore tracking and search cookies to stop personalising your results. To get a private browser or incognito window use the following key combinations:
- Chrome – Ctrl+Shift+N
- FireFox – Ctrl+Shift+P
- Internet Explorer – Ctrl+Shift+P
I have found that this approach doesn’t work with Bing.
Metasearch for the Big Guys
Dogpile returns results from Google, Yahoo!, and Yandex. The Russian engine, Yandex, is the fourth largest search engine in the world and Yahoo! is really the Bing search engine database.
Dogpile is only good for short and simple search statements, however, it is a good for a quick look at what you are likely to get from the largest search engines.
Copernic has stopped selling its professional version metasearch tool and discontinued all support for both the professional and free personal versions of Copernic Agent. It only searches five of the 15 search engines it purports to search (Google, Bing, Yahoo, Dogpile, and Open Directory Project).
Copernic is Windows only.
iMetaseach is a possible replacement for Copernic. It is now in version 5.03, so it isn’t a new kid on the block. The paid version searches Google and purports to search 11 other search engines.
The program groups search results by concept; click a group that interest you and the search results will be revised. This is an effective method to refine search results and get the most relevant results. It’s very effective for ambiguous search terms.
Unfortunately, iMetasearch has a steep learning curve, but if you frequently conduct Investigative Internet Research it is worth the effort to learn how to use this advanced web search tool.
iMetasearch is Windows only.
There is nothing slipperier than a politician or bureaucrat trying to avoid accountability while extolling how transparent and open they are. These craven creatures turn our access to information laws into the proverbial greased pig. Continue reading ‘Sly Pols & Crats’
I sat in a hotel lobby recently enjoying a coffee while waiting for someone. I decided to write an entirely different blog article than this one while I waited. This lobby has convenient tables for road warriors and their portable computers–that is why I often arrange short meetings in that lobby.
At another table, I notice something rather familiar connected to someone’s laptop. It was a WiFi Pineapple. This was a bit disturbing.
Do you know what the WiFi Pineapple can do?
Surveillance & the WiFi Pineapple
The WiFi Pineapple allows an attacker to launch a “Man in the Middle” or MiTM attack by inspecting the data flow between the target and any resources he accesses on the web via a WiFi connection. This little Linux box equips the investigator or spy with a versatile surveillance and information-gathering tool.
From a surveillance perspective, it will reveal the names of all the WiFi networks the victim connected to on the highway, in hotels, and far-flung airports. The subject’s computer will cycle through all of the network identities (names) it has previously used. All of this is sent in the clear and can be captured by the WiFi Pineapple. The same applies to smartphones.
All of the network names to which it previously connected are disclosed over a few minutes. Coupled with an online resource such as WiGLE, this information can be used to establish a profile of the device owner–where he lives, works, eats, drinks coffee, his gym, his favorite no-tell motel, and more. Combine the Pineapple with Wireshark and you have an excellent surveillance toolkit or one that could facilitate some real mischief.
The simplest protection is the best. Shut-off the WiFi on your portable device. Use WiFi in secure environments only.
The DuckDuckGo (DDG) search engine aggregates content to provide search results while offering significant privacy features. My favorite search shortcut in DDG is its version of the Google site: command. Place an exclamation point before the site you want to search–for example, “private investigator” !facebook. The exclamation point directs the search to a specific site. In this case, you will have to login to your Facebook account to see the results.
Recent involvement in investigations into industrial accidents and incidents involving security officers caused me to look into the state of first-aid training. I have some concerns that lessons-learned are not being applied as well as they should.
Recent wars have taught us how to teach personnel to control severe bleeding and maintain an airway under adverse situations. Unfortunately, from what I have seen, this hasn’t filtered down to industry in the form of better training and equipment.
This battlefield experience should be of interest security personnel at sites that might experience an active shooter or similarly catastrophic event. Those involved in emergency and business continuity planning should also take note of these lessons. My comments do not reflect the specific situation in any one Canadian province. I am aware of all the regulatory inertia, concerns about costs, and legal implications that inhibit change, but these are weak excuses for inaction when lives may be at risk. The injured person who is beading to death or suffocating doesn’t give a damn about laws and regulations–he simply does not want to die. Continue reading ‘The Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK)’
Bitcoins have interested me of late as I am writing my next book which is about issues of security, privacy, and anonymity while doing investigative internet research. Continue reading ‘Taking Bitcoins to the Laundry’
I previously wrote about Bluetooth and Surveillance Detection and how Bluetooth could be used to determine if you were being followed.
Prior to a recent surveillance assignment, I scanned for nearby devices and was able to identify each of the other investigators’ mobile phones. This was not a good start. I required all the team members to demonstrate that they had shut off both Bluetooth and WiFi or at least set the Bluetooth signal to be hidden except to authorized devices and shut-off the WiFi.
loc.alize.us shows the geo-location of images on Flickr. Address search and satellite imagery is provided by Google. The tag search is good as it shows all the tags on a given pic so that you can identify more tags to search for.
It has a lot of scripts running so be careful.
All good investigators strive to learn new skills. Most skilled investigators are true readers. Some investigators are autodidacts.
To be an expert in your field, you should read one book about it every week. You heard me right, one book a week. But what happens when you are having difficulty getting through the book because you are encountering material that is over your head?
My solution to this is 3×5 index cards in two colors. I write down what is going well on one colour and what I am struggling with on another. Do this for small portions of the book at a time and use other resources to get a grasp of the problem area. Don’t move on until you overcome all the areas over which you struggle. If it is something you can practice hands-on in the real world, then do so. An example would be to actually use the the software you are reading about and work through the aspect that presents some difficulty. As you overcome the things you struggled with, write them on the going well cards but note that they were originally difficult.