Since the Arab uprisings of 2011, UAE has utilised 'cyber-security governance' to quell the harbingers of revolt and suppress dissident voices

he nuts and bolts of the Emirati surveillance state moved into the spotlight on 1 February as the Abu Dhabi-based cybersecurity company DarkMatter allegedly stepped "out of the shadows" to speak to the international media.

Its CEO and founder, Faisal al-Bannai, gave a rare interview to the Associated Press at the company's headquarters in Abu Dhabi, in which he absolved his company of any direct responsibility for human rights violations in the UAE.  

Established in the UAE in 2015, DarkMatter has always maintained itself to be a commercially driven company. Despite the Emirati government constituting 80 percent of DarkMatter's customer base and the company previously describing itself as "a strategic partner of the UAE government", its CEO was at pains to suggest that it was independent from the state.

According to its website, the company's stated aim is to "protect governments and enterprises from the ever-evolving threat of cyber attack" by offering a range of non-offensive cybersecurity services. 

Seeking skilled hackers

Though DarkMatter defines its activities as defensive, an Italian security expert, who attended an interview with the company in 2016, likened its operations to "big brother on steroids" and suggested it was deeply rooted within the Emirati intelligence system.

Simone Margaritelli, also a former hacker, alleged that during the interview he was informed of the UAE's intention to develop a surveillance system that was "capable of intercepting, modifying, and diverting (as well as occasionally obscuring) traffic on IP, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks".

Although he was offered a lucrative monthly tax-free salary of $15,000, he rejected the offer on ethical grounds.

Furthermore, in an investigation carried out by The Intercept in 2016, sources with inside knowledge of the company said that DarkMatter was "aggressively" seeking skilled hackers to carry out offensive surveillance operations. This included plans to exploit hardware probes already installed across major cities in order to track, locate and hack any person at any time in the UAE.

In many respects, the UAE's surveillance infrastructure has been built by a network of international cybersecurity “dealers” who have willingly profited from supplying the Emirati regime with the tools needed for a modern-day surveillance state

As with other states, there is a need for cybersecurity in the UAE. As the threat of cyber-attacks has increased worldwide, there have been numerous reports of attempted attacks from external actors on critical infrastructure in the country. 

Since the Arab uprisings of 2011, however, internal "cyber-security governance", which has been utilised to quell the harbingers of revolt and suppress dissident voices, has become increasingly important to the Emirati government and other regimes across the region.

Authoritarian control

In the UAE, as with other GCC states, this has found legislative expression in the cybercrime law. Instituted in 2012, its vaguely worded provisions essentially provide a legal basis to detain anybody who criticises the regime online.

This was to be followed shortly after by the formation of the UAE’s own cybersecurity entity, the National Electronic Security Authority (NESA), which recently began working in parallel with the UAE Armed Forces’ cyber command unit, established in 2014.  

A network of Emirati government agencies and state-directed telecommunications industries have worked in loose coordination with international arms manufacturers and cybersecurity companies to transform communications technologies into central components of authoritarian control. 

In 2016, an official from the Dubai police force announced that authorities were monitoring users across 42 social media platforms, while a spokesperson for the UAE’s Telecommunication Regulatory Authority similarly boasted that all social media profiles and internet sites were being tracked by the relevant agencies.

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Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi meets with US President Donald Trump in Washington in May 2017 (AFP)

As a result, scores of people who have criticised the UAE government on social media have been arbitrarily detained, forcefully disappeared and, in many cases, tortured.

Last year, Jordanian journalist Tayseer al-Najjar and prominent Emirati academic Nasser bin Ghaith received sentences of three and 10 years respectively for comments made on social media. Similarly, award-winning human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor has been arbitrarily detained for nearly a year due to his online activities. 

This has been a common theme across the region in the post-"Arab Spring" landscape. In line with this, a lucrative cybersecurity market opened up across the Middle East and North Africa, which, according to the US tech research firm Gartner, was valued at $1.3bn in 2016.

A modern-day surveillance state

In many respects, the UAE's surveillance infrastructure has been built by a network of international cybersecurity "dealers" who have willingly profited from supplying the Emirati regime with the tools needed for a modern-day surveillance state. 

Moreover, it has been reported that DarkMatter has been hiring a range of top talent from across the US national security and tech establishment, including from Google, Samsung, and McAfee. Late last year, it was revealed that DarkMatter was managing an intelligence contract that had been recruiting former CIA agents and US government officials to train Emirati security officials in a bid to bolster the UAE's intelligence body.

UK military companies also have a foothold in the Emirati surveillance state. Last year, it was revealed that BAE Systems had been using a Danish subsidiary, ETI Evident, to export surveillance technologies to the UAE government and other regimes across the region. 

'The million-dollar dissident'

Although there are officially no diplomatic relations between the two countries, in 2016, Abu Dhabi launched Falcon Eye, an Israeli-installed civil surveillance system. This enables Emirati security officials to monitor every person "from the moment they leave their doorstep to the moment they return to it", a source close to Falcon Eye told Middle East Eye in 2015.

The source added that the system allows work, social and behavioral patterns to be recorded, analyzed and archived: "It sounds like sci-fi but it is happening in Abu Dhabi today."

Moreover, in a story that made headlines in 2016, Ahmed Mansoor's iPhone was hacked by the UAE government with software provided by the Israeli-based security company NSO Group. Emirati authorities reportedly paid $1m for the software, leading international media outlets to dub Mansoor "the million-dollar dissident."

Mansoor's case is illustrative of how Emirati authorities have conducted unethical practices in the past. In recent years, the UAE has bought tailored software products from international companies such as Hacking Team to engage in isolated, targeted attacks on human rights activists, such as Mansoor.

The operations of DarkMatter, as well as the installation of Falcon Eye, suggest, however, that rather than relying on individual products from abroad, Emirati authorities are now building a surveillance system of their own and bringing operations in-house by developing the infrastructure for a 21st-century police state. 

[Source: This article was published in middleeasteye.net By JOE ODELL - Uploaded by the Association Member: Wushe Zhiyang]

Categorized in Deep Web

[Source: This article was published in halifaxtoday.ca By Ian Milligan - Uploaded by the Association Member: Deborah Tannen]

Today, and into the future, consulting archival documents increasingly means reading them on a screen

Our society’s historical record is undergoing a dramatic transformation.

Think of all the information that you create today that will be part of the record for tomorrow. More than half of the world’s population is online and maybe doing at least some of the following: communicating by email, sharing thoughts on Twitter or social media or publishing on the web.

Governments and institutions are no different. The American National Archives and Records Administration, responsible for American official records, “will no longer take records in paper form after December 31, 2022.

In Canada, under Library and Archives Canada’s Digital by 2017 plan, records are now preserved in the format that they were created in: that means a Word document or email will be part of our historical record as a digital object.

Traditionally, exploring archives meant largely physically collecting, searching and reviewing paper records. Today, and into the future, consulting archival documents increasingly means reading them on a screen.

This brings with it an opportunity — imagine being able to search for keywords across millions of documents, leading to radically faster search times — but also challenge, as the number of electronic documents increases exponentially.

As I’ve argued in my recent book History in the Age of Abundance, digitized sources present extraordinary opportunities as well as daunting challenges for historians. Universities will need to incorporate new approaches to how they train historians, either through historical programs or newly-emerging interdisciplinary programs in the digital humanities.

The ever-growing scale and scope of digital records suggests technical challenges: historians need new skills to plumb these for meaning, trends, voices and other currents, to piece together an understanding of what happened in the past.

There are also ethical challenges, which, although not new in the field of history, now bear particular contemporary attention and scrutiny.

Historians have long relied on librarians and archivists to bring order to information. Part of their work has involved ethical choices about what to preserve, curate, catalogue and display and how to do so. Today, many digital sources are now at our fingertips — albeit in raw, often uncatalogued, format. Historians are entering uncharted territory.

Digital abundance

Traditionally, as the late, great American historian Roy Rosenzweig of George Mason University argued, historians operated in a scarcity-based economy: we wished we had more information about the past. Today, hundreds of billions of websites preserved at the Internet Archive alone is more archival information than scholars have ever had access to. People who never before would have been included in archives are part of these collections.

Take web archiving, for example, which is the preservation of websites for future use. Since 2005, Library and Archives Canada’s web archiving program has collected over 36 terabytes of information with over 800 million items.

Even historians who study the middle ages or the 19th centuries are being affected by this dramatic transformation. They’re now frequently consulting records that began life as traditional parchment or paper but were subsequently digitized.

Historians’ digital literacy

Our research team at the University of Waterloo and York University, collaborating on the Archives Unleashed Project, uses sources like the GeoCities.com web archive. This is a collection of websites published by users between 1994 and 2009. We have some 186 million web pages to use, created by seven million users.

Our traditional approaches for examining historical sources simply won’t work on the scale of hundreds of millions of documents created by one website alone. We can’t read page by page nor can we simply count keywords or outsource our intellectual labor to a search engine like Google.

As historians examining these archives, we need a fundamental understanding of how records were produced, preserved and accessed. Such questions and modes of analysis are continuous with historians’ traditional training: Why were these records created? Who created or preserved them? And, what wasn’t preserved?

Second, historians who confront such voluminous data need to develop more contemporary skills to process it. Such skills can range from knowing how to take images of documents and make them searchable using Optical Character Recognition, to the ability to not only count how often given terms appear, but also what contexts they appear in and how concepts begin to appear alongside other concepts.

You might be interested in finding the “Johnson” in “Boris Johnson,” but not the “Johnson & Johnson Company.” Just searching for “Johnson” is going to get a lot of misleading results: keyword searching won’t get you there. Yet emergent research in the field of natural language processing might!

Historians need to develop basic algorithmic and data fluency. They don’t need to be programmers, but they do need to think about how code and data operates, how digital objects are stored and created and humans’ role at all stages.

Deep fake vs. history

As historical work is increasingly defined by digital records, historians can contribute to critical conversations around the role of algorithms and truth in the digital age. While both tech companies and some scholars have advanced the idea that technology and the internet will strengthen democratic participation, historical research can help uncover the impact of socio-economic power throughout communications and media history. Historians can also help amateurs parse the sea of historical information and sources now on the Web.

One of the defining skills of a historian is an understanding of historical context. Historians instinctively read documents, whether they are newspaper columns, government reports or tweets, and contextualise them in terms of not only who wrote them, but their environment, culture and time period.

As societies lose their physical paper trails and increasingly rely on digital information, historians, and their grasp of context, will become more important than ever.

As deepfakes — products of artificial intelligence that can alter images or video clips — increase in popularity online, both our media environment and our historical record will increasingly be full of misinformation.

Western societies’ traditional archives — such as those held by Library and Archives Canada or the National Archives and Records Administration — contain (and have always contained) misinformation, misrepresentation and biased worldviews, among other flaws.

Historians are specialists in critically reading documents and then seeking to confirm them. They synthesise their findings with a broad array of additional sources and voices. Historians tie together big pictures and findings, which helps us understand today’s world.

The work of a historian might look a lot different in the 21st century — exploring databases, parsing data — but the application of their fundamental skills of seeking context and accumulating knowledge will serve both society and them well in the digital age.

Categorized in Investigative Research

[Source: This article was published in techcrunch.com By Catherine Shu - Uploaded by the Association Member: Clara Johnson]

When Facebook  Graph Search launched six years ago, it was meant to help users discover content across public posts on the platform. Since then, the feature stayed relatively low-profile for many users (its last major announcement was in 2014 when a mobile version was rolled out) but became a valuable tool for many online investigators who used it to collect evidence of human rights abuses, war crimes and human trafficking. Last week, however, many of them discovered that Graph Search features had suddenly been turned off, reports Vice.

Graph Search let users search in plain language (i.e. sentences written the way people talk, not just keywords), but more importantly, it also let them filter search results by very specific criteria. For example, users could find who had liked a page or photo, when someone had visited a city or if they had been in the same place at the same time with another person. Despite the obvious potential for privacy issues, Graph Search was also an important resource for organizations like Bellingcat, an investigative journalism website that used it to document Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen for its Yemen Project.

Other investigators also used Graph Search to build tools like StalkScan, but the removal of Graph Search means they have had to suspend their services or offer them in a very limited capacity. For example, StalkScan’s website now has a notice that says:

“As of June 6th, you can scan only your own profile with this tool. After two years and 28M+ StalkScan sessions, Facebook decided to make the Graph Search less transparent. As usual, they did this without any communication or dialogue with activists and journalists that used it for legitimate purposes.The creepy graph search itself still exists, but is now less accessible and more difficult to use. Make sure to check yourself with this tool, since your data is still out there!”

Facebook may be trying to take a more cautious stance because it is still dealing with the fall out from several major security lapses, including the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, as well as the revelation earlier this year that it had stored hundreds of millions of passwords in plain text.

In a statement to Vice, a Facebook spokesperson said “The vast majority of people on Facebook search using keywords, a factor which led us to pause some aspects of graph search and focus more on improving keyword search. We are working closely with researchers to make sure they have the tools they need to use our platform.” But one of Vice’s sources, a current employee at Facebook, said within the company there is “lots of internal and external struggle between giving access to info so people can find friends or research things (like Bellingcat),  and protecting it.”

TechCrunch has contacted Facebook for more information.

Categorized in Internet Search

[Source: This article was published in globalnews.ca By Jessica Vomiero - Uploaded by the Association Member: Anna K. Sasaki]

Amid the frenzy of a cross-country RCMP manhunt for two young men who’ve been charged in one murder and are suspects in another double homicide a photo of an individual who looked like one of the suspects began circulating online.

Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, have been charged with the second-degree murder of Leonard Dyck and are suspects in the double homicide of Lucas Fowler and Chyna Deese. The two men are currently on the run and police have issued nationwide warrants for their arrest.

The search has focused on northern Manitoba, where the men were believed to have been sighted on Monday. The photo was sent to police on Thursday evening by civilians following an RCMP request that anyone with any information about the whereabouts of the suspects reports it to police.

It depicts a young man who strikingly resembles the photos police released of McLeod holding up a copy of the Winnipeg Sun paper featuring the two suspects on the front page.

RCMP say the man in the photo is not the suspect Kam McLeod. Experts say police always have to follow up on online rumours and pictures like this.
RCMP say the man in the photo is not the suspect Kam McLeod. Experts say police always have to follow up on online rumours and pictures like this.

Police eventually determined that the photo did not depict either of the suspects.

“It appears to be an instance where a photo was taken and then ended up unintentionally circulated on social media,” RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine said at a press conference on Friday.

She also warned against sharing or creating rumours online.

“The spreading of false information in communities across Manitoba has created fear and panic,” she said.

While this particular photo did not show a suspect, the RCMP confirmed to Global News that their investigators follow up on “any and all tips” to determine their validity. Experts note that this mandate may force the RCMP to pull resources away from the primary investigation.

“They have to assign investigators to take a look at the information and then to follow up,” explained Kim Watt-Senner, who served as an RCMP officer for almost 20 years and is now a Fraser Lake, B.C., city councillor. “They physically have to send members out to try and either debunk or to corroborate that yes, this is, in fact, a bona fide lead.”

After seeing the photo, she noted that a trained eye would be able to see some distinct differences in the eyes and the facial structure, but “if a person wasn’t trained to look for certain things, I can see why the general public would think that was the suspect.”

She added that while she believes getting public input through digital channels is largely a good thing, it can also be negative.

“There’s a whole wave that happens after the information is shared on social media and the sharing of the posts and everything else, then it goes viral and it can go viral before the RCMP or the police have a chance to authenticate that information.”

While she knows through her experience as a Mountie that people are trying to help, “it can also impede the investigation, too.”

Near the beginning of the investigation, the RCMP appealed to the public for any information they had about Schmegelsky and McLeod, or the victims. Kenneth Gray, a retired FBI agent and lecturer at the University of New Haven, explained that the internet has also changed the way police respond when receiving public tips.

“Whenever you asked the public for assistance on a case and you start receiving tips, every one of those tips has to be examined to determine whether or not it is useful to solve whatever case you’re working on and that takes time,” said Gray.

“In this particular case with the photograph, it had to be examined to determine whether this was actually the suspect or whether it was just a lookalike that took vital resources that could have been being devoted to actually finding this guy.“ 

He explained that if he’d gone about verifying or debunking the photo himself, he’d attempt to determine where the information came from and trace that back to the person in the photo. He suggested performing an electronic search on the image to ultimately determine who is in the photograph.

In addition, the internet has added a new layer of complexity to screening public leads. With the advent of social media, “you get inundated with information that is coming from all over the place.”

“At one point, you would put out local information and you’d only get back local-type tips. But now, with the advent of the internet, tips can come in from all over the world. It casts such a large net that you get information from everywhere,” he said.

“That gives you a lot more noise.”

The model that most departments have pursued to deal with this, he said, is one that requires investigators to pursue all leads while setting priorities to determine which ones should be given the most resources.

While the widened reach that the internet affords can complicate things, some experts suggest that this isn’t always a negative thing.

Paul McKenna, the former director of the Ontario Provincial Police Academy and a former policing consultant for the Nova Scotia Department of Justice, agrees.

“All leads are potentially useful for the police until they are proven otherwise,” he said in a statement. “Every lead may hold something of value and police always remind the public that even the most apparently inconsequential thing may turn out to have relevance.”

Social media has played a role in a number of high-profile arrests over the years, including that of Brock Turner, who in 2016 was convicted of four counts of felony sexual assault and allegedly took photos of the naked victim and posted them on social media, and Melvin Colon, a gang member who was arrested in New York after police were given access to his online posts.

In this particular case, Watt-Senner explained that a command centre would likely be set up close to where the RCMP are stationed in Manitoba. She said that all information will be choreographed out of that command centre, where a commander will decipher the leads that come through.

“Those commanders would be tasked and trained on how to obtain information, filter information, and disseminate information and to choreograph the investigative avenues of that information in real-time,” Watt-Senner said.

She notes that the RCMP would likely have used facial recognition software to determine for certain whether the man depicted in the photo was, in fact, the suspect, and the software would also be used as citizens began to report sightings of the suspects.

“This is really integral. This is a really important part of the investigation, especially when you start to get sightings from different areas. That information would be sent to people that are specifically trained in facial recognition.”

While the investigation may take longer because of the higher volume of leads being received through digital channels, all three experts conclude that the good that comes from social media outweighs the bad.

 

Categorized in Investigative Research

[Source: This article was published in thegroundtruthproject.org By Josh Coe - Uploaded by the Association Member: James Gill] 

Last week ProPublica uncovered a secret Facebook group for Customs and Border Patrol agents in which a culture of xenophobia and sexism seems to have thrived. The story was supported by several screenshots of offensive posts by “apparently legitimate Facebook profiles belonging to Border Patrol agents, including a supervisor based in El Paso, Texas, and an agent in Eagle Pass, Texas,” the report’s author A.C. Thompson wrote.

This is only the most recent example of the stories that can be found by digging into Facebook. Although Instagram is the new social media darling, Facebook, which also owns Instagram, still has twice the number of users and remains a popular place for conversations and interactions around specific topics. 

Although many groups are private and you might need an invitation or a source inside them to gain access, the world’s largest social network is a trove of publicly accessible information for reporters, you just need to know where to look. 

I reached out to Brooke Williams, an award-winning investigative reporter and Associate Professor of the Practice of Computational Journalism at Boston University and Henk van Ess, lead investigator for Bellingcat.com, whose fact-checking work using social media has earned a large online following, to talk about how they use Facebook to dig for sources and information for their investigations. Their answers were edited for length and clarity. 

1. Use visible community groups like a phonebook

 While it remains unclear how Thompson gained access to the Border Patrol group, Williams says you can start by looking at those groups that are public and the people that care about the issues you’re reporting. 

“I have quite a bit of success with finding sources in the community,” says Williams, “people on the ground who care about local issues, in particular, tend to form Facebook groups.” 

Williams uses Facebook groups as a phonebook of sorts when looking for sources.  For example, if a helicopter crashes in a neighborhood, she suggests searching for that specific neighborhood on Facebook, using specific keywords like the name of local streets or the particular district to find eyewitnesses. Her neighborhood in the Boston area, she recalls, has its own community page.

 Williams also recommends searching through Google Groups, where organizations often leave “breadcrumbs” in their message boards.

 “It’s not all of them,” she notes about these groups, “but it’s the ones that have their privacy settings that way.”

 After speaking with Williams, I spent a few hours poking around in Google Groups and discovered a surprising amount of local and regional organizations neglected their privacy settings. When looking through these group messages, I had a lot of success using keyword searches like “meeting minutes” or “schedule,” through which documents and contact information of “potential sources” were available. While you can’t necessarily see who the messages are being sent to, the sender’s email is often visible.

This is just one example of a group with available contacts

1 Search 22Southwest Baltimore22 Redacted

2 Search Meeting Minutes Redacted

3 Redacted 22Meeting Minutes22 Results

4 Meeting Minutes

2. Filter Facebook with free search tools created by journalists for journalists

Despite privacy settings, there’s plenty of low-hanging and fruitful information on social media sites from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, as a 2013 investigation by New Orleans-based journalism organization The Lens shows. The nonprofit’s reporters used the “family members” section of a Charter School CEO’s Facebook page to expose her nepotistic hiring of six relatives.

 “But if you know how to filter stuff… you can do way more,” van Ess says.

  In 2017, van Ess helped dispel a hoax story about a rocket launcher found on the side of a road in Egypt using a combination of social media sleuthing, Google Earth and a free tool that creates panoramas from video to determine when the video clip of the launcher was originally shot. More recently, he used similar methods as well as Google Chrome plug-ins for Instagram and the help of more than 60 Twitter users to track down the Netherlands’ most wanted criminal

He says journalists often overlook Facebook as a resource because “99 percent” of the stuff on Facebook is “photos of cats, dogs, food or memes,” but there’s useful information if you can sort through the deluge of personal posts. That’s why he created online search tools graph.tips and whopostedwhat.com so that investigators like himself had a “quick method to filter social media.”

For those early-career journalists who’ve turned around quick breaking news blips or crime blotters for a paper’s city desk, might be familiar with the twitter tool TweetDeck (if not, get on it!), Who posted what? offers reporters a way to similarly search keywords and find the accounts posting about a topic or event. 

Here’s how it works: you can type in a keyword and choose a date range in the “Timerange” section to find all recent postings about that keyword. Clicking on a Facebook profile of interest, you can then copy and paste that Facebook account’s URL address into a search box on whopostedwhat.com to generate a “UID” number. This UID can then be used in the “Posts directly from/Posts associated with” section to search for instances when that profile mentioned that keyword. 

These tools are not foolproof. Often times, searches will yield nothing. Currently, some of its functions (like searching a specific day, month or year) don’t seem to work (more on that in the next section), but the payoff can be big.  

“It enables you essentially to directly search somebody’s timeline rather than scrolling and scrolling and scrolling and having it load,” says Williams of graph.tips, which she employs in her own investigations. “You can’t control the timeline, but you can see connections between people which is applicable, I found, in countries other than the States.”

 While she declined to provide specific examples of how she uses graph.tips—she is using van Ess’s tools in a current investigation—she offered generalized scenarios in which it could come in handy. 

For instance, journalists can search “restaurants visited by” and type in the name of two politicians. “Or you could, like, put in ‘photos tagged with’ and name a politician or a lobbyist,” she says. She says location tagging is especially popular with people outside the US. 

Facebook’s taken a lot of heat recently about privacy issues, so many OSINT tools have ceased to work, or, like graph.tips, have had to adapt. 

 3. Keep abreast of the changes to the platforms 

The trouble with these tools is their dependence on the social platform’s whim–or “ukase” as van Ess likes to call it. 

For example, on June 7, Facebook reduced the functionality of Graph Search, rendering van Ess’s graph.tips more difficult to use.

According to van Ess, Facebook blocked his attempts to fix graph.tips five times and it took another five days before he figured out a method to get around the new restrictions by problem-solving with the help of Twitter fans. The result is graph.tips/facebook.html, which he says takes longer than the original graph.tips, but allows you to search Facebook much in the same way as the original. 

Even though the site maintains the guarantee that it’s “completely free and open, as knowledge should be,” van Ess now requires first-time users to ask him directly to use the tool, in order to filter through the flood of requests he claims he has received. 

I have not yet been given access to the new graph.tips and can’t confirm his claims, but van Ess welcomes investigators interested in helping to improve its functionality. Much like his investigations, he crowdsources improvements to his search tools. Graph.tips users constantly iron out issues with the reworked tool on GitHub, which can be used like a subreddit for software developers.  

Ongoing user feedback, as well as instructions on how to use van Ess’s new Facebook tool, can be found here. A similar tool updated as recently as July 3 and created by the Czech OSINT company Intel X is available here, though information regarding this newer company is sparse. By contrast, all van Ess’s tools are supported by donations. 

The OSINT community has its own subreddit, where members share the latest tools of their trade. 

4. Use other social media tools to corroborate your findings

When it comes to social media investigations, van Ess says you need to combine tools with “strategy.” In other words, learn the language of the search tool–he shared this helpful blog post listing all of the advanced search operator codes a journalist would need while using Twitter’s advanced search feature.

Williams also had a Twitter recommendation: TwXplorer. Created by the Knight Lab this helpful tool allows reporters to filter Twitter for the 500 most recent uses of a word or phrase in 12 languages. The application will then list all the handles tweeting about that phrase as well as the most popular related hashtags.

Bonus: More search tools 

If you want even more open-source tools honed for journalistic purposes, Mike Reilley of The Society of Professional Journalists published this exhaustive and continuously updated list of online applications last month. Be warned though: not all of them are free to use.

Categorized in Investigative Research

[Source: This article was published in enca.com - Uploaded by the Association Member: Rene Meyer]

In this file illustration picture taken on July 10, 2019, the Google logo is seen on a computer in Washington, DC. 

SAN FRANCISCO - Original reporting will be highlighted in Google’s search results, the company said as it announced changes to its algorithm.

The world’s largest search engine has come under increasing criticism from media outlets, mainly because of its algorithms - a set of instructions followed by computers - that newspapers have often blamed for plumenting online traffic and the industry’s decline.

Explaining some of the changes in a blog post, Google's vice president of news Richard Gingras said stories that were critically important and labor intensive -- requiring experienced investigative skills, for example -- would be promoted.

Articles that demonstrated “original, in-depth and investigative reporting,” would be given the highest possible rating by reviewers, he wrote on Thursday.

These reviewers - roughly 10,000 people whose feedback contributes to Google’s algorithm - will also determine the publisher’s overall reputation for original reporting, promoting outlets that have been awarded Pulitzer Prizes, for example.

It remains to be seen how such changes will affect news outlets, especially smaller online sites and local newspapers, who have borne the brunt of the changing media landscape.

And as noted by the technology website TechCrunch, it is hard to define exactly what original reporting is: many online outlets build on ‘scoops’ or exclusives with their own original information, a complexity an algorithm may have a hard time picking through.

The Verge - another technology publication - wrote the emphasis on originality could exacerbate an already frenetic online news cycle by making it lucrative to get breaking news online even faster and without proper verification.

The change comes as Google continues to face criticism for its impact on the news media.

Many publishers say the tech giant’s algorithms - which remain a source of mysterious frustration for anyone outside Google -- reward clickbait and allow investigative and original stories to disappear online.

Categorized in Search Engine

[Source: This article was published in fbi.gov - Uploaded by the Association Member: Carol R. Venuti]

Operation SaboTor, a multi-agency law enforcement action between January and March 2019 that targeted opioid sales on the Darknet, included this search of a vehicle and a residence in California. The search was the result of an eight-month investigation that led to five arrests.

When Knoxville first responders found a man dead in his home, there was clear evidence on the scene of the heroin that caused his overdose. Also nearby were clues to how the deadly drugs had reached him. Investigators found a padded manila envelope with postage and markings that provided them another link back to the online drug sellers who have proliferated on the Darknet in recent years.

Drug traffickers are increasingly using anonymous online networks to sell narcotics, including potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl, to buyers who can order and receive the drugs without ever leaving home. What can appear to be a regular e-commerce transaction is one of the delivery channels fueling a deadly nationwide epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that drug overdose deaths have been on an upward climb for several years, across the United States and across all demographic groups. In 2017 alone, 70,237 people in this country died of a drug overdose; two-thirds of those deaths involved an opioid.

As part of a government-wide effort to address the epidemic, the Department of Justice created the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team in 2018 to leverage the power of federal and international partnerships to combat the complex and deadly threat of online drug sales.

Now in its second year, J-CODE is delivering results through coordinated efforts and the commitment of the nation’s law enforcement agencies to address opioid sales on the Darknet. Building on the success of last year’s Operation Disarray, the J-CODE team led Operation SaboTor between January and March of this year. These concentrated operations in the United States and abroad led to 61 arrests and shut down 50 Darknet accounts used for illegal activity. Agents executed 65 search warrants, seizing more than 299 kilograms of drugs, 51 firearms, and more than $7 million ($4.504 million in cryptocurrency, $2.485 million in cash, and $40,000 in gold).

“This is a new and evolving threat, and we found that no one agency can do it alone.”

Maggie Blanton, special agent, FBI Hi-Tech Organized Crime Unit

J-CODE joins the efforts of the FBI with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Defense (DOD). As many of these markets cross borders, Europol is also an invaluable international partner in J-CODE’s efforts to make a global impact on Darknet drug trafficking.

“This is a new and evolving threat, and we found that no one agency can do it alone,” said FBI Special Agent Maggie Blanton of the Hi-Tech Organized Crime Unit at FBI Headquarters. “The FBI may get information from local law enforcement after an overdose or arrest. Through that tip, we can work with our federal partners with the Postal Inspection Service, because so often the drugs are moving through the mail. Our Customs and Border Protection partners are a great resource on understanding trends and preventing drugs from coming into the country from abroad, and our partnership with DEA is critical because of their experience and expertise with drug cases.”

The evidence gathered from that overdose death in Knoxville, for example, was shared with local law enforcement and then with USPIS, the FBI, and other partners. The eight-month investigation led to the arrest of five suspects in the Los Angeles area in March 2019 who are believed to be behind at least two online drug sites that shipped out an estimated 1,500 parcels each month. Search warrants carried out on a residence rented by the suspects and two of their vehicles uncovered drugs, a loaded gun, mailing supplies, computers, cell phones, and transaction receipts.

FBI Special Agent Nathan Cocklin said members of his Hi-Tech Organized Crime squad from the Los Angeles Field Office, along with USPIS inspectors, interviewed the suspects as they were brought into custody. He said the suspects claimed they were just running a business, making money, and not considering the impact of their online sales. “It’s a transaction only,” Cocklin said of the Darknet marketplaces. “They don’t even know each other’s real names.” He said the suspects never considered that a package dropped in a mailbox in Southern California could mean the loss of a life in eastern Tennessee.

Drugs uncovered in a March 2019 search in California of a residence and vehicle involved in a Darknet drug investigation by the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team.
Members of the J-CODE team conduct a search of a residence and vehicle in California in March 2019, where drugs were among the items seized.

A Multi-Agency, Multi-Layered Approach

The Darknet is a part of the Internet accessed through a specialized browser called Tor. Tor allows users to better hide who they are, where they are, and what they are doing online. Darknet marketplaces offer illicit goods that range from hacked bank accounts and stolen credit card information to guns and drugs.

“It’s become easier to get onto the Darknet marketplaces—all you need is a smartphone or computer,” said Chris Oksala, a supervisory special agent with DEA. “There are multiple ways to pay for the drug—from cryptocurrencies to Western Union transfers—and there are multiple ways to shield your identity.”

But on the other side of the seeming ease and anonymity of buying and selling on the Darknet is the hard work being done by law enforcement, in concert, to combat the illegal activity occurring online—from targeting the marketplaces and the sellers to reaching out to those buying illegal wares online.

“These are very complex and time-consuming cases for one agency,” said Kyle Rau, USPIS program manager for Darkweb investigations. “The ‘one government’ approach allows us to tap into each agency’s strength and allows each agency to focus on a particular task.”

The FBI and its law enforcement partners in the United States and abroad have had tremendous success in recent years taking down some of the largest and most profitable Darknet marketplaces. In 2017, law enforcement seized the AlphaBay marketplace, believed to be the largest Darknet market at the time. That seizure was followed by a takedown of Hansa market, another major player.

“It is harder to get the infrastructure up,” stressed Cocklin. “To compare it to a normal drug organization, a dealer is easier to replace than the head of the organization. If you take out a marketplace, you have to rebuild. It takes money and time and undermines trust. Did taking out AlphaBay and Hansa stop everything? No. Did it make an impact? Absolutely.”

The next-level target is the Darknet drug trafficking organizations. The goal of Operation Disarray and Operation SaboTor, along with the ongoing work of J-CODE partners, is to identify and arrest those behind the online sales.

“It takes work, but the FBI, USPIS, DEA, and others are laser-focused on tackling the opioid epidemic on the web.”

Nathan Cocklin, special agent, FBI Los Angeles

The final prong of the J-CODE effort is educating the public on the dangers of opioids by contacting individuals who are known to have purchased drugs online. Sometimes the message arrives too late. In locating and contacting buyers, the J-CODE team often comes across death notices and obituaries. In some cases, agents learn from buyers that they had survived an overdose; in other cases, agents learn from family members that a buyer did not. Oksala stressed that many of the drugs being sold online carry the added danger of unknown, powerful chemicals. “People are making thousands of pills at a time, doing the formulation without any scientific training,” he said.

The agents arrive with information on addiction and treatment, and their very presence challenges the anonymous nature of the Darknet. “If they know someone is looking, people lose faith in the marketplace,” said Rich Sheehan, USPIS assistant inspector in charge. “We’ve proven time and time again that they are not anonymous.”

”We are able to identify people,” said Cocklin. “It takes work, but the FBI, USPIS, DEA, and others are laser-focused on tackling the opioid epidemic on the web.”

Categorized in Internet Privacy

[Source: This article was Published in zeenews.india.com - Uploaded by the Association Member: Dana W. Jimenez]

BBC based its investigation on three points – where exactly did it happen, when did it happen, and who is responsible for the atrocities.

A video emerged earlier this year, showing some armed men in uniform brutally killing a group of women and children, and triggered uproar across the globe. It was alleged that the video, released by Channel 4, showed the killing of civilians by Cameroon’s army over alleged links with dreaded terrorist group Boko Haram.

The Cameroon government denied the claim, saying that the video was not shot in the country and that the Army was being wrongly blamed for killing civilians. A statement was released by Cameroon Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, to deny the claims.

“The video that is currently going around is nothing but an unfortunate attempt to distort actual facts and intoxicate the public. Its sincerity can be easily questioned,” Bakary had said in his statement. While the statement came in July 2018, the government a month later said that seven members of the military were facing investigation.

BBC, however, decided to carry out a fact check of the video and the claims and counterclaims around it. And the media group did so with the help of Google Earth. It based its investigation on three points – where exactly did it happen, when did it happen, and who is responsible for the atrocities. The BBC released its findings in a video titled ‘Cameroon: Anatomy of a killing’.

Where:

The first 40 seconds of the video captures a mountain range with a distinctive profile. BBC journalists spent hours to match the range with the topography of northern Cameroon, but it failed to give the desired result. After a tip-off from a source, they studied the topography of a particular region and discovered that the range was near a village named Krawa Mafa, few hundred meters away from the Nigerian border. Other details in the video, such as houses and dirt tracks, were matched with the topography of the village and found to be same.

When:

This was the trickiest part of the investigation done by BBC journalists. Several bits and pieces were put together to identify the range of period when the civilians were killed. A building was visible on the satellite imagery but only till 2016, which suggested that the killings took place before that period. Another building was spotted to have come up in March 2015. Then, a path was traced which appeared only between January and July. The journalists also analyzed the shadow of walking assailants on the basis of the concept of the sundial. After the whole analysis, it was confirmed that the killings took place between March 20 and April 5, 2015.

Who:

The statement released by Cameroonian Minister of Communication Issa Tchiroma Bakary was used for this purpose. For instance, the minister in his statement claimed that the weapons in the video were not the ones used by the Cameroonian Army, but BBC analysis showed that one of the guns used was Serbian made Zastava M21, which is used by some sections of the country’s military. The minister also claimed that the dress worn by the assailants was one used for operations in forests. Bakary claimed that the soldiers in the said area wore a desert-style uniform. But Cameroonian soldiers in the region in a Channel 4 video of 2015 were seen wearing forest-style camouflage, similar to those seen in the video.

The focus then shifted to a statement released by the government in August 2018, which named seven soldiers who were arrested and under investigation. The names mentioned in the video, such as Corporal Tchotcho, were matched with some Facebook profiles. A profile of Tchotcho Cyriaque Bityala, who was among the detainees named by the government. Two other soldiers, named in the government list, were identified in a similar manner.

The findings were shared by the BBC with the Cameroonian government. Responding to it, the Bakary said, “Seven soldiers were arrested, disarmed. They are under investigation right now. I can confirm that all seven of them are in prison.”

Categorized in Investigative Research

[Source: This article was Published in techcrunch.com By Catherine Shu - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jay Harris]

Earlier this week, music lyrics repository Genius accused Google of lifting lyrics and posting them on its search platform. Genius told the Wall Street Journal that this caused its site traffic to drop. Google, which initially denied wrongdoing but later said it was investigating the issue, addressed the controversy in a blog post today. The company said it will start including attribution to its third-party partners that provide lyrics in its information boxes.

When Google was first approached by the Wall Street Journal, it told the newspaper that the lyrics it displays are licensed by partners and not created by Google. But some of the lyrics (which are displayed in information boxes or cards called “Knowledge Panels” at the top of search results for songs) included Genius’ Morse code-based watermarking system. Genius said that over the past two years it repeatedly contacted Google about the issue. In one letter, sent in April, Genius told Google it was not only breaking the site’s terms of service but also violating antitrust law—a serious allegation at a time when Google and other big tech companies are facing antitrust investigations by government regulators.

After the WSJ article was first published, Google released a statement that said it was investigating the problem and would stop working with lyric providers who are “not upholding good practices.”

In today’s blog post, Satyajeet Salgar, a group product manager at Google Search, wrote that the company pays “music publishers for the right to display lyrics since they manage the rights to these lyrics on behalf of songwriters.” Because many music publishers license lyrics text from third-party lyric content providers, Google works with those companies.

“We do not crawl or scrape websites to source these lyrics. The lyrics you see in information boxes on Search come directly from lyrics content providers, and they are updated automatically as we receive new lyrics and corrections on a regular basis,” Salgar added.

These partners include LyricFind,  which Google has had an agreement with since 2016. LyricFind’s chief executive told the WSJ that it does not source lyrics from Genius.

While Salgar’s post did not name any companies, he addressed the controversy by writing “news reports this week suggested that one of our lyrics content providers is in a dispute with a lyrics site about where their written lyrics come from. We’ve asked our partner to investigate the issue to ensure that they’re following industry best practices in their approach.”

In the future, Google will start including attribution to the company that provided the lyrics in its search results. “We will continue to take an approach that respects and compensates rights-holders, and ensures that music publishers and songwriters are paid for their work,” Salgar wrote.

Genius, which launched as Rap Genius in 2009, has been at loggerheads with Google before. In 2013, a SEO trick Rap Genius used to place itself higher in search results ran afoul of Google’s web spam team. Google retaliated by burying Rap Genius links under pages of other search results. The conflict was resolved after less than two weeks, but during that time Rap Genius’ traffic plummeted dramatically.

Categorized in Search Engine

[Source: This article was Published in lifewire.com By Tim Fisher - Uploaded by the Association Member: Issac Avila]

Do research, check neighborhood safety, or report crimes using these sites

Find crime statistics, crime scene investigation information, police information, and more with these law enforcement search engines, sites, and communities. These websites are open to everyone, and the information they contain is free. 

 Family Watchdog: Sex Offender Registry

Family Watchdog Sex Offender Registry

What We Like

  • Sends free notifications when offenders move in or out of your area.

  • Also contains information on food and drug recalls.

  • Includes blog with entries on topics to keep your family safe.

What We Don't Like

  • Map legend needs clearer explanations of the icons.

  • You have to click on icons one at a time to pull up the offender's photo and information.

  • The site is ad heavy.

Family Watchdog provides a notification service. You register an account and are delighted to see that no sex offenders live in your neighborhood. However, that could change, and if it does, you'll receive an email or text message from Family Watchdog with information about the new neighbor. You can also opt to search the data base of offenders by state. 

What We Like

  • Includes registries for 50 states, D.C., five territories, and many Indian tribes.

  • The Education & Protection web page includes safety information for families.

  • No advertisements.

What We Don't Like

  • Each registry is maintained by its state, territory, or tribe.

  • Any requests for changes or additional information must go through the individual registry affected.

The National Sex Offender Registry from the U.S. Department of Justice is another free service you can use to identify registered sex offenders in your local area. Sex offender registries, a searchable database of sex offender information and statistics, and help for victims of sexual crimes are all available here. You can search by name, location, ZIP code, address, school, and daycare facility. This information is especially useful if you're planning a move and want to make sure that neighborhoods you are thinking of moving to are safe. 

FBI

FBI

What We Like

  • Features a Case of the Week each week.

  • Contains information on fugitives, terrorists, kidnapped and missing persons, and crime statistics.

  • Seeks names or information on unidentified persons shown in photos or sketches.

What We Don't Like

  • How and where to search for information is difficult to determine on this vast website.

  • Designed to seek help from the public, rather than to serve as a search engine.

An enormous amount of information is available on the FBI website, including lots of crime statistics and law enforcement information, reports and publications, a Top Ten Fugitive list, information on how to become an FBI agent. The site is home to a rotating set of featured stories regarding crime and law enforcement, crime statistics, victim assistance, warnings about current popular scams, criminal justice information services, and much more. This site is updated frequently, as FBI information tends to change often. 

Officer.com

Officercom

What We Like

  • Headlines and the forums are updated regularly.

  • A collection of current goings-on in the law enforcement communities.

What We Don't Like

  • Contains many advertisements.

  • The headlines link to stories on other sites. There is no original content.

  • Not useful as a search engine.

The Officer.com website is useful for law enforcement agency search, officer search, and crime sites search. Firearms information, tactical training, career information, and active forums are also available. Much of the information is aimed at police officers, but it is of potential interest to anyone who wants to learn more about the criminal justice system. 

 National Criminal Justice Reference Service

National Criminal Justice Reference Service

What We Like

  • Enormous collection of search topics relating to crime and law enforcement.

  • Hundreds of downloadable publications.

  • If you can't find an answer to a question on the site, you are encouraged to email it to a Specialist for an answer.

What We Don't Like

  • The site contains so much information, it is a little overwhelming.

  • No indication how long it takes for a live Specialist to respond to an emailed question.

The National Criminal Justice Reference Service is a free, federally funded organization and website that provides justice and drug-related information to support research, policy, and program development. Search through A-Z topics, learn about the courts, funding opportunities, and law enforcement. Many different organizations are represented here, including the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Juvenile Justice, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. 

 FindLaw

FindLaw

What We Like

  • Searches yield the names of lawyers with a specified area of expertise in a specific location.

  • Frequent updates with articles on current topics.

  • Library of podcasts and blogs.

  • Legal forms for download.

What We Don't Like

  • FindLaw is predominantly a legal marketing firm.

  • Law firms pay to be listed in the FindLaw directory.

FindLaw is a legal directory on the web with consumer legal information, criminal law resources, and a ton more law enforcement topics. All sorts of legal topics, state law information, and help in finding a local attorney for any legal need you might have are also available here. If you have a bit of legal research that you'd like to do, this is also a useful site. It doesn't substitute for advice from a licensed attorney, but it's good for getting started. 

Department of Justice

Department of Justice

What We Like

  • Attractive, professional website.

  • Provides ways to find sales of seized properties, locate prison inmates, identify missing persons, and report crimes.

  • Updated regularly.

What We Don't Like

  • The website contains so much information, it is difficult to know where to look.

  • Lists job possibilities but doesn't give information on requirements needed to apply.

All sorts of interesting things are on the U.S. Department of Justice website including reporting a crime, finding a job, locating an inmate, finding help for crime victims, sales of seized property, even reporting waste and misconduct. Here are just a few of the topics you'll find at the Department of Justice: How to Combat Terrorism, Uphold Civil Rights & Liberties, End Violence Against Women, and much more. You can also sign up for email updates to keep track of the latest law and order news that affects the nation. The Department of Justice also has a presence on several of the major social media platforms.

SpotCrime

SpotCrime

What We Like

  • Displays icons for different types of crimes on an area map.

  • Sends text messages to registered users when new crimes occur in their areas.

  • Includes burglary, theft, identify theft, assault, and other types of crimes.

What We Don't Like

  • Information about an individual crime is limited to date, type of crime, and address.

  • Contains display ads.

  • User interface could use a makeover.

SpotCrime provides a map of crime hot spots for hundreds of different cities around the United States. Click on your state and find the city you're looking for or give the website permission to determine your location, and then read the map legend to figure out what kind of crimes are represented on the map. You're able to browse by state here, and you can submit crime information if you have it. 

 

Categorized in Internet Privacy
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