Osmosis 2018

Last week, I attended the OSMOSIS Conference, held in Las Vegas and put on by Cynthia Hetherington of the Hetherington Group.

After years of going to conferences of a large national organization (that will go unnamed) and coming back less than fulfilled, I found it fantastic to attend a conference that was oozing with brilliant people more closely aligned with what I do on a daily basis.

This year’s venue, Excalibur Hotel, was not my favorite; however, OSMOSIS is an absolutely terrific conference. After hearing rave reviews over the past few years from the likes of Kelly Paxton, Eli Rosenblatt, Rachele Davis and Marcy Phelps, I am so glad I made it.

If your business involves gathering investigative intelligence online, it’s a can’t-miss, and I suggest you sign up for next year right now. The networking alone was worth the price of admission.

Here are some of my takeaways, quotes and tools:


“Big Brother is not watching you – unless you have given him a reason to.” — Anthony Reyes, former NYPD officer


FOCA – Metadata analysis tool finds hidden information in documents.


Searx.net – “Privacy respecting” metasearch engine that combs through multiple search engines, including Google and Bing.


Virtual currency is at least 10 years away from being widely adopted.


Street Light Vision (from Andrew Fordred)

A man is looking for his keys under a streetlight. A woman approaches him and asks him what he is doing.

“I am looking for my keys,” says that man.

With no car in sight, the woman asks, “Where did you park your car?”

Pointing to a dark parking lot, the man says, “It’s over there.”

“Well, why aren’t you looking over there?” the puzzled woman asks.

“Because there is more light over here.”


dnsLytics – Chrome extension that helps you get information about an IP address, domain name and provider.


Favorite VPN? I asked about a dozen people (much smarter than I am) about their favorite VPN. NordVPN seemed to be most widely used, followed by Privacy Internet Access (PIA). (Personally, I use PIA.)


Talking about leaving data “artifacts,” Anthony Reyes said, “Somewhere out there, there is a footprint.”


Hunchly – Tool for online investigators that captures pages as you search, leaving a full audit trail that can hold up in court. So if that webpage disappears a day after you found it, Hunchly will keep a record of it. And even though the founder of Hunchly, Justin Seitz, wasn’t there for the conference, he was there in spirits … literally. ;-) [Thanks, Justin!]


Wigle – Collection of wireless routers.


Canary Tokens – Offers powerful tools to help track who accessed a link, file or email. This one’s a bit beyond my technological pay grade, but here is a good explanation.

“A canary token is a web URL, email address, document file and so on which will trigger an action if it’s ever accessed. In the case of a web URL, the canary token is the address of a unique yet nonexistent page on the website of the company that issued the token. If someone were to ever attempt to access that page, the web server would notice (because it would attempt to serve that nonexistent page to whoever requested it). The server will then notify the owner of the canary token that someone tried to access it.”


Yandex Image Search – The Yandex image search engine for facial recognition is extraordinarily powerful. I uploaded some images from my personal photo collection, and it was easily able to identify a number of photos of me on the web. Neither Google Images nor Bing Images came even close.


If you use Tor, put the Security Level settings to the “safest” to disable JavaScript and other scripts to help avoid potential viruses and malware.


Jaleo has some amazing, really authentic Spanish food.


Bing Image Search – The Bing Image search has a feature that lets you search only a portion of the photo if, for example, you want to search a portion (like a background) to determine where the picture was taken.


“Computer forensics is like dumpster diving, but only better. It’s clean and neat.” — Amber Schroader


Internet of things – Think privacy is dead? You might be right, at least if you are using any of the new internet of things devices such as your Fitbit (which is being used in several murder cases) and Alexa (which has been known to “unknowingly” send recordings of conversations).


“At times, our work can feel like finding a needle in a needle stack.” Don Colcolough


The Tor browser can cycle through IP addresses, making it really, really challenging to track down the true user.


Read Notify – Lets you know when email you’ve sent gets read.


Want to learn more about the Dark Web? Try IACA (International Anti Crime Academy).


Two sites for helping track cryptocurrency are blockchain.com and Wallet Explorer.


Nox App Player – Android emulator for Windows and Mac so you can run Android apps on your computer.


When conducting searches on Google for international subjects, change your VPN’s IP address to the country that you are searching, and you will get completely different results.


Too much red wine can give you a headache. And it might make you sleep in a bit. And miss a bit of a conference.

Enjoyed What You Read?

Sign up for our newsletter and stay up to date with what Hal Humphreys, from Pursuit Magazine, believes to be one of the absolute best blogs in the investigative industry!

11 replies
  1. Emmanuelle Welch
    Emmanuelle Welch says:

    Brian: Thanks for sharing your very well organized notes (as well as your love of good Spanish food while in Vegas. That restaurant was fantastic…) I love this conference too. Sharing OSINT geekiness with people obsessed with the same things is priceless. Still treating my “Vegas cough” acquired on the smoke-filled casino floor of the Excalibur. See you at Osmosis 2019, if not before, neighbor!

  2. Kelly the Connector
    Kelly the Connector says:

    Finally I was able to meet you in person and that was worth the cost of admission. Great write up. See you next year.

Comments are closed.