Osmosis 2019 Conference

For the second year in a row, I attended the OSMOSIS Conference for open source intelligence professionals (you can read last years OSMOSIS review here).

I go into these conferences with a pretty open mind – people who think they are going to have some life-changing-experience are bound to be disappointed. In part, because everyone attending the conference has a different background, so every presentation is not going to perfectly relevant to what you do.

So even if you are never going to do a cryptocurrency investigation, chasing down child predators or spending your wee hours on dark web, it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of what that is. 

My goal with any conference like this is to pick up a few new techniques and tools relevant to my daily business practices, have an understanding of new trends, meet some new people and to walk away with a new sense of investigative inspiration. 

By that measure, it was a resounding success. 

I’m just amazed about how many brilliantly smart people that are out there doing some really incredible work. 

The venue in Orlando this year was 100% better than the Excalibur in Las Vegas last year (and San Diego in 2020 is going to be hard to pass up). 

I did find that a few of the presentations were a big miss (note: we know how to Google and anyone can read a PowerPoint slide), but overall, it’s a great conference that I would recommend to anyone in the business.  

Here are some of my takeaways, quotes and tools:

1Try this Google query: intitle:”not for public release” site:.gov. A fun little experiment that will show you all the documents titled “not for public release” on any U.S. government site. Happy hunting….

2Best virtual machine? VirtualBox if you are working with $0 budget; VMWare if you have $80 a year.

3Qintel – One of the best datasets and indexes of dark web content. 

4ViewDNS.info – One of the best sites for searching domain website data, including boolean searching, where you can search for things like anyone with an email that starts with a particular username from any domain (e.g. hello@*.com

5Reveye – Chrome and Firefox extension that lets you do reverse image searches through five separate image search engines (Google, Bing, Yandex, TinEye and Baidu)  at the same time. 

6“In a post-GDPR world, don’t rely on Whois data…but it is a good starting point.” ~Joshua Hopping

7DomainTools has the best set of historical data for domain information. Whoisology and CyberToolbelt also  have good historical data. 

8Archive.today takes a snapshot of a webpage and turns it into an unalterable record. Archive-it is similar.

9Sneaky way to find out if there are connections between multiple websites is to check to see if they have a matching Google Analytics code. You can get the Analytics code in the source code, and simply do a Google search on the Analytics code. 

10“You should be too expensive for some of your clients!” ~Cynthia Hetherington

11Favorite VPN – I asked the same question last year to people much smarter than me, but Nord VPN and Proton VPN seem to be the flavor of the year. Privacy Internet Access, which I personally use, seems to get blocked from too many websites because of its popularity. 

12Quiztime – Each weekday, members post a quiz on Twitter, asking you to geolocate an image, to find out whether a video has been tinkered with or to identify some obscure audio. Great way to test out your online sleuthing skills.  

13GeoGuessr – Online game that lets you guess the location of street-level imagery on a map. Another great way to test your skills.

14“Some investigative techniques may not be viable, but if it does work, you can look like a wizard and a hero to your client.” ~Chris Brenner

1590% of the DuckDuckGo index is from Yandex

16“The Tor browser is 95% Mozilla Firefox, which does not have a great track record of security.” ~Andrew Lewman

17Yandex is the “King of all facial recognition searches” available via open source.

18“Be a resource. You may not have the answer, but you may know the guy.” ~Cynthia Hetherington

19Hooyu – Relatively new, UK-based database that helps investigate people, places and businesses.

20Photos of the interior of a house from real estate listing websites like Zillow can be very revealing.

21MySudo – Helps you communicate with privacy, by creating different “pseudos”, each with a phone number and email address to use for signups, downloads, or anytime you need a private phone number and/or email address. 

22Dehashed can help investigators identify usernames and passwords of targets from leaked data. 

23Jaleo in Orlando was just as awesome as Jaleo in Las Vegas. Seriously, it’s way too expensive for what it is, but it’s pretty darn authentic Spanish food. And Jaleo’s owner, Jose Andres, is a better human being than most of us, and I will support whatever he does. 

24Private investigators are pretty bad ass at beating escape rooms. 

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6 replies
  1. Neil Caddell
    Neil Caddell says:

    Brian, I missed my first OSMOSIS and am bummed as Cynthia and some of the top flight investigators such as yourself make me know that the industry is only going to get better and outgrow any negative PI connotations. Next year I will be back and I cannot wait to get in there and learn with the rest of the crowd. Your top takeaways are excellent and spot on so please continue to contribute in all the spaces we usually see you. Talk soon and long live OSMOSIS! Neil

  2. Adam Visnic
    Adam Visnic says:

    My favorite takeaway: “Photos of the interior of a house from real estate listing websites like Zillow can be very revealing.” – very practical and valuable information.

  3. Kelly Paxton
    Kelly Paxton says:

    Awesome recap. So bummed that I was not able to make it. I was there in spirit. See you next year in San Diego!

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