Copernic Agent & Google

I have used Copernic for years, and just accepted its lack of a Google search.  I just got used to it, and never sought a way to add Google.

At a recent conference, Kevin Ripa told me that a registry entry would solve the problem after I mentioned that it didn’t search Google.  If you’re going to feel like an idiot, its good to shown-up by a really smart guy like Kevin.

Go to the registry key:


and insert the following string:


with value,


Erase Data with a Hammer

Flash-based solid-state drives nearly impossible to erase

Researchers from the University of California at San Diego delivered a paper at the FAST-11 Conference in San Jose, Calif., last week that shows it’s almost impossible to reliably erase data from a solid state drive.

The report, Reliably Erasing Data from Flash-Based Solid State Drives (PDF), goes through all of the known techniques for erasing data and they found the best method was a big hammer.

27 Mohammeds


In conducting Internet research we encounter the problem of persona isolation. In national security circles this is called the “27 Mohammeds problem”.  Essentially, how do we know that the John Smith mentioned in a blog is the specific John Smith we are researching?

Reputation Evaluation

This leads to a another difficulty.  An Internet reputation may not reflect reality.  The Internet reputation may be fabricated out of malice.  We must evaluate a conviction in the august Internet Court and determine if we believe it enough to not take a risk on the subject firm or person.

Related Articles

The following related articles may help you deal with this problem:

Detecting Firesheep

I wrote about Firesheep awhile back. Predictably, a countermeasure has appeared called Blacksheep.

New Firefox Add-On Detects Firesheep, Protects You on Open Networks

If you’re concerned about using open Wi-Fi networks because of Firesheep, the highly popular new hacking tool, you should check out BlackSheep, a Firefox add-on that makes surfing on open networks safe once again.

Hijacking Social Network Connections

The Firesheep Firefox plugin makes it easy to hijack someone’s social network connections. For example, Facebook authenticates the client using cookies. If someone logs on using a public WiFi connection, the cookies are sniffable. Firesheep uses Wincap to capture the authentication information which allows you to hijack the connection.

Protect yourself by forcing the authentication through TLS or stop logging into Facebook using public networks.

WikiLeaks, YouTube, Propaganda, Politics, and SEO

It never ceases to amaze me how gullible people are. Let’s look at two examples recently in the news.

First, the case of Shirley Sherrod, the black U.S. Department of Agriculture official accused of racism. The evidence of her racism was a short, edited video clip offered up by a partisan web gadfly, Andrew Breitbart, who has a small empire of web sites. This guy knew such a controversial and inflammatory out-take would drive millions to his web sites. This huge burst of site traffic is money in Brietbart’s pocket.

What surprised me was that the NAACP and the Obama administration swallowed this hook, line, and sinker. They didn’t review the full video, interview people present at the event, or evaluate Breitbart’s motives for publishing the edited video.

Second, the leaked military documents that now appear on the WikiLeaks site need closer examination.

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is what a judge would describe as an unreliable witness. He pleaded guilty to 25 charges of hacking in Australia; and according to the National Post, “Before he set up the website in 2006, Julian Assange spent years hacking into government and company computers, including those of the U.S. Department of Defense, as part of a group calling themselves the International Subversives.”

With Assange’s talk about “war crimes” and his background, it isn’t hard to understand that this guy has an agenda. How his agenda distorts the picture of events depends upon what documents he publishes from this large volume of previously classified material.  We will never know what he didn’t publish and this creates a very similar situation to the selectively edited video clip published by Breitbart.

Laws You Should Read & Understand

A good Investigator needs to know more than a little law.  Many cases I work on involve subjects who legally change their names, often in contravention of the relevant law. For example, Michigan law disallows a name change if you have been convicted of a felony or have been committed to a mental institution. However, The con-man known as “Prince” von Habsburg-Lothringer (really Josef Meyers, a former Detroit mental patient) was able to change his name.

Many jurisdictions have laws that say you can’t change your name to avoid debts or prosecution, and if your are a convicted felon or on parole or probation. I have found all of these types changing their names. Nobody really checks the background of people who change their names in many jurisdictions. You can use this to your favour in some circumstances as the local authorities don’t want the public to know how lax they are in this regard. A complaint to the right bureaucrat often leads to interesting and highly useful assistance.

The RICE Method of Analysis

Use the RICE method to decide how to respond to information or intelligence:

R for reliability. The basic truthfulness or accuracy of the information you are evaluating.

I  for the importance of the data based upon its releveance

C  for the cost of your possible reactions or actions relating to the information

E  for the effectiveness of your  actions based upon this information. Would actions based upon this information solve the problems you face?

This format is useful for summarizing collected data and for analyzing how you might apply the data in a broad range of situations.


Just remember, as the old pessimist philosopher Arnold Schopenhauer stated, “The truth will set you free . . . but first it will make you miserable.”

How to Answer a Question

I often get clients asking questions that can’t be answered. Here is my guide to how to answer questions:

  1. Decide on a single meaning for every word in the question.
  2. Decide if an answer to this question can be acted upon to improve things.

Essentially, if you can’t define it or act upon it, then ignore it.

Google-Free Wednesday


Previously, I wrote about file searches using OSUN.ORG. provides a file search  encompassing Web, FTP, Usenet, Metalink and P2P resources (ed2k/emule) including 47 file types and 554+ file extensions including over 167 file upload services. It also offers an alert service sent to your email.

However, not all information in the search database has every property you might be searching for, therefore, you have to explore the different ways to search for the file in the advanced search screen.

In my experience, this is not a good search engine to use to search by a person’s name or a company name. The files are not well indexed in this fashion.  One must also be careful to select the “All Files” button in the “Adult Filter” to be sure all the files found appear in the search results.

I usually search by a file name for other versions of a file that I already know about. In some cases, will give me an understanding of how widely circulated a file may be, or turn-up different versions of the same file.

Investigators & the Investigative Process

Sherlock Holmes with his deerstalker hat and magnifying glass is the most familiar image of the Investigator. However, this is a narrow-minded representation of the Investigator.

The investigative process does not belong to the police or private detective.  Investigation is at the heart of every human activity. Scholars investigate. Antique dealers and appraisers investigate. Investors investigate. Medical Doctors investigate. In one way or another, we all investigate something or other. To investigate is to seek a solution. It is the application of information collection skills,  logic, and analytical skills.

This is the last article of 2009.  The next article will appear on Google-Free Wednesday, 6 January 2010.

FaceBook and Investigations

Facebook: The truth is out there

… Facebook is a good source for data mining.

But one problem is that information gathered is not verified independently.

“These are not facts, just hearsay,” the former Criminal Investigation Department trainer said. “For digital photos, you can’t prove they are original as photos can be manipulated and put on the Web. You can’t authenticate them unless you get the original files from the photographer.”

He added: “This way of getting information is more trendy…but the information should be verified by conducting a proper investigation.”

Only when it is backed up will it be admissible as court evidence, he said.

… [it is] not inconceivable for someone to falsify their whereabouts on such sites.

“There really is no way of proving who was at the computer, which is the problem with any Internet-based investigation,” he said. “Today, one can update Facebook status or tweet Twitter from any device at any location.”

This is an excellent article on the value of searching  social sites.

Three Dimensions of Note-taking

I have written previously on taking notes using audio, images, and handwritten notes.  Quite a while back I wrote about video notes using a simple camcorder called the FlipUltra.

Kodak Zi8

Now the Kodak Zi8 seems like a  better pocket-sized point-and-shoot video camera.  The digital image stabilization provides better video than the Flip. It has some hardware and software advantages over the Flip. It needs SD or SDHC memory cards which I see as an advantage even if it makes the Zi8 cost more.

Internet Detective 105 – Paid Monitoring Services

Social Media Monitoring

As an Investigator, you must realise that even the Vatican uses social media. Some forms of social media are taking on some of the characteristics of email. This information rich environment is something that Investigators and Researchers must understand. To be effective, one must also understand the tools available to conduct thorough research of the social media content.

One must also be able to create accurate budgets for this type of research. To set-up, optimise, and monitor research feeds that cover multiple social media and news sites can take many hours. These services allow one to monitor the social media space for new data or derogatory content. One particular strength of these services is that they search Blog comments, and can track comments and posts of individual contributors. While these services are aimed at PR agencies, they also offer significant utility for the Investigator, but they can be very expensive tools to use.


Techrigy (pronounced tek-err-jee) offers a free account that gets you up to 5 Search Words/Phrases, and store up to 1000 results. This is a great way to learn how to use the system.


Unfortunately Radian6 is expensive — you pay just to have it in your toolbox, and then pay more for each social media research project you undertake. These costs must be understood at the outset and budgeted into the costs of the Investigation.


Unfortunately, at Filtrbox their annual fee for individuals appears to be $1,000USD.


Backtype lets you search comments that mention a brand, company, or topic, but it also lets you search comments left by a particular person.


AttaainCI costs $150 per month for unlimited searching and monitoring. It’s less sophisticated than Radian 6 and Filtrbox which rate Blog comments from positive to negative. This is aimed at the Competitive Intelligence professional rather than the PR agency.