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[Source: This article was Published in zeenews.india.com - Uploaded by AIRS 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 lifewire.com By Tim Fisher - Uploaded by AIRS 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

[This article is originally published in newyorker.com written By Ned Beauman - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Jennifer Levin]

An open-source investigation is a tool anybody can use; as it spreads, it will inevitably mingle with the sort of delirium and propaganda that Eliot Higgins has always meant it to cut through.

On a recent afternoon in central London, twelve people sat in a hotel conference room trying to figure out the exact latitude and longitude at which the actress Sharon Stone once posed for a photo in front of the Taj Mahal. Among them were two reporters, a human-rights lawyer, and researchers and analysts in the fields of international conflict, forensic science, online extremism, and computer security. They had each paid around twenty-four hundred dollars to join a five-day workshop led by Eliot Higgins, the founder of the open-source investigation Web site Bellingcat. Higgins had chosen this Sharon Stone photo because the photographer was standing on a raised terrace, which makes the angles confusing, and used a lens that makes Stone appear closer to the Taj than she actually was. The participants, working on laptops, compared the trees and paths visible in the photo to their correlates on Google Earth.

Stone’s location on that day—the northwest corner of the Great Gate—may not have been of grave historical importance, but the participants were employing the same techniques that have underlaid Bellingcat’s news-making investigations into subjects such as the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, over Ukraine, and the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Army. When Higgins was profiled in The New Yorker, in 2013, he was still alone blogger calling himself Brown Moses, and the field of open-source investigation—the microscopic examination of publicly available material such as satellite images, social-media posts, YouTube videos, and online databases to uncover the truth about disputed events—was in its infancy. Today, it is firmly established. Last year, the International Criminal Court issued, for the first time, an arrest warrant based solely on video evidence from social media, and the recent report on gas attacks in Syria by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons leans heavily on images from Google Earth that are annotated in a Bellingcat style. Meanwhile, open-source investigation reached a new audience this spring when the research agency Forensic Architecture, which has often collaborated with Bellingcat, was the subject of a show at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts. (It has since been shortlisted for the Turner Prize.)

Higgins, who lives in Leicester with his wife and two young children, is now fielding ever more interest from journalists, N.G.O.s, corporations, universities, and government agencies, eager for his expertise. One of the participants in the London workshop I attended, Christoph Reuter, is the Beirut-based Middle East correspondent for Der Spiegel, and has worked as a reporter for three decades; when I asked him about Higgins, he made a gesture of worshipfully bowing down. Higgins started Bellingcat with a Kickstarter campaign, in 2014, but today almost half of its funding comes from these paid workshops, which he has been running since last spring, with the first in the U.S.—in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco—planned for later this year. Higgins is also developing a partnership with the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, and hopes to hire enough staff to expand Bellingcat’s coverage into Latin America.

Higgins’s work is animated by his leftist, anti-authoritarian politics. One of the workshop attendees, a Middle East analyst named Robert, didn’t want his full name used in this article because certain factions in the region may see any association with Bellingcat as suspicious. But an open-source investigation is a tool anybody can use; as it spreads, it will inevitably mingle with the sort of delirium and propaganda that Higgins has always meant it to cut through. Crowdsourced Reddit investigations into Pizzagate or QAnon often appear, at first glance, not so different from a Bellingcat report, full of marked-up screenshots from Google Maps or Facebook. Even on the mainstream-liberal side, a new conspiracy culture sees anti-Trump Twitter celebrating any amateur detective who can find a suspicious detail about Jared Kushner in a PDF.

At the same time, the Russian government, which has derided Bellingcat’s open-source investigations in the past, now issues satellite images of bombings in Syria, inviting members of the public to look closely and see for themselves; RT, the state-sponsored Russian news channel, has launched its own “digital verification” blog, seemingly modeled on Bellingcat. In ramping up both reporting and training, expanding Bellingcat into some combination of news magazine and academy, Higgins is working to, in his words, “formalize and structure a lot of the work we’ve been doing” at a moment when the methods he helped pioneer are more than ever threatened by distortion and misuse.

I asked Higgins whether he excludes anyone from these workshops. “We’re going to start explicitly saying that people from intelligence agencies aren’t allowed to apply,” he said. “They’re asking more and more. But we don’t really want to be training them, and it’s awkward for everybody in the room if there’s an M.I.5 person there.” I asked how he’d feel if a citizen journalist signed up with the intention of demonstrating that, say, many of the refugee children who apply for asylum in the U.S. are actually grizzled adult criminals. He said he’d let that person join. “If they want to use these techniques to do that reporting, and it’s an honest investigation, then the answers should be honest either way. They should find out they can’t prove their ideas. And maybe they’ll learn that their ideas aren’t as solid as they thought.” Ultimately, Higgins respects good detective work, no matter where it comes from. At one point in the workshop, he showed the group a video about 4chan users taking only thirty-seven hours to find and steal a flag emblazoned with “he will not divide us,” which Shia LaBeouf had erected in front of an Internet-connected camera in a secret location as a political art project. “4chan is terrible,” Higgins said. “But sometimes they do really amazing open-source investigations just to annoy people.”

After Sharon Stone, there were several more geolocation exercises, concluding, on Day Two, with a joint effort to piece together several dozen photos of the M2 Hospital, in Aleppo, after it was bombed by pro-government forces. The challenge was to use tiny details to figure out exactly how they connected together in three-dimensional space: to determine, for instance, whether two photos that showed very similar-looking chain-link barriers were actually of the same chain-link barrier from different angles. “Most of my pictures are of rubble, which is super-helpful,” Diane Cooke, a Ph.D. student at King’s College London’s Centre for Science and Security Studies, said.

Higgins mentioned that he had left out all the gory photos, but nevertheless this exercise was a war crime turned into a jigsaw puzzle. Earlier, he had paused a video projection on a frame of a nerve-gassed Syrian child’s constricted pupil, which stared down at us for an uncomfortably long time. “I am careful about that,” he told me when I asked him about his approach to such horrors. The example which most frequently upsets people, he said, is a Bellingcat investigation into a mass execution by the Libyan National Army, in 2017: fifteen dark blots are visible against the sand on a satellite image taken later the same day. “It’s horrible, but it’s such a good example,” Higgins said. “And if you’re geolocating bloodstains, you’ve got to show the bloodstains.”

Afterward, it was time for lunch outside in the sun. Robert, the Middle East analyst, complained that he had “geolocation vision”: after a few hours of these exercises, it is impossible to look around without noting the minute textures of the built environment, the cracks in the sidewalk and the soot on the walls.

Days Four and Five of a Bellingcat workshop give the participants a chance to practice the skills they’ve just learned by launching their own investigations. Earlier this year, when Christiaan Triebert, a Bellingcat investigator, was mugged by two men on mopeds while he was in London to teach a Bellingcat workshop, he recruited his workshop participants to help him investigate the city’s moped gangs. (“My adrenaline turned into that energy—like, ‘This is pretty interesting!’ ” he recalled. “We were basically analyzing the Instagram profiles, mapping out the networks, who is friends with whom and where are they operating.”) Triebert has also run workshops in several countries where reporters are under threat of death. In Iraq, for instance, he trained reporters from al-Ghad, a radio station broadcasting into isis-occupied Mosul. “Some of their friends and colleagues got slaughtered by isis militants, and there was the video of it—they were drowned in a cage in a swimming pool. They said, “We really want to know where this happened, so if Mosul ever gets recaptured we can visit, but also just to see where they murdered our friends.” We started mapping out Mosul swimming pools, and within an hour they found it.

In the London workshop, the participants split up into three teams: one was trying to geolocate a video showing a bombing by U.S. forces somewhere in Damascus; another was analyzing the connection between water shortages in Iraq and the filling of the Ilisu dam, in Turkey; a third was investigating the leaders of a recent rally in London protesting the jailing of the far-right activist Tommy Robinson. Space took on the atmosphere of a newsroom. By the afternoon, the Damascus team had divided its labor: Higgins and Reuter were pursuing a single electricity pylon in the background of the murky green night-vision footage, which they thought would be enough to geolocate the bombing; Marwan El Khoury, a forensic-science Ph.D. candidate at the University of Leicester, was trying to pick out Polaris from the constellations briefly visible in the sky, in the hopes of determining the orientation of the camera; and Beini Ye, a lawyer with the Open Society Justice Initiative, was combing through relevant news reports. “Nobody has ever been able to geolocate this video, so it’s a matter of pride,” Higgins said.

On the last day, pizza was ordered so the three teams could work through lunch. At the deadline of 2 p.m., Robert, representing the Ilisu team, got up first. “We haven’t found anything spectacularly new,” he said, “but we’ve discovered that a claim by the Iraqi Water Ministry might be more or less correct. That sounds really boring, but I think it’s important.”

The Tommy Robinson team was next. It had found out that “Danny Tommo,” one of the pseudonymous organizers of the pro-Tommy Robinson protest, was already known to the police under his real name. To some laughter, they displayed a headline from a Portsmouth newspaper reading “Bungling armed kidnappers jailed for ‘stupid’ attempt.”

Five minutes before the deadline, there had been a burst of excitement from the Damascus team: Higgins had remembered that a Russian news service had put GoPro cameras on the front of tanks when embedded with Syrian armed forces in 2015. In one YouTube video, the tank jolted from the recoil after firing its gun, and for a moment it was possible to see a pylon on the horizon—which was helpful, Higgins explained, but not quite enough. Still, that didn’t mean the crucial pylon would never be found: some photos from Bellingcat investigations have taken as long as two years to be geolocated. “It’s good that it was really hard,” Higgins told me later. “You have to rewire how people think about images. So they become really aware of how the world is constructed.”

Categorized in Investigative Research

[This article is originally published in bizjournals.com written by RSM US LLP - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Issac Avila]

Persons engaged in fraud and illegal activity have long used several methods to hide ill-gotten assets. Today, forensic investigators have powerful new technological tools to track and uncover these assets. Some specialized techniques may require digital forensic specialists; however, more basic options are also effective.

Whether the suspected fraudster is a business partner, an employee or some other related party, the process for uncovering hidden accounts tends to follow a similar path.

Let’s look at basic techniques first.

The first step is to build a financial profile for the person or entity in question. This process involves gathering and reviewing documents and records such as tax returns, bank statements, mobile payment account history, investment account statements, credit card statements, life insurance policies, paycheck stubs, real and personal property records, lien records and any other financial-related statements for the period of time during which questionable activity is suspected.

As these documents are being compiled, build a master list comprised of all accounts identified, including owner’s names, authorized users, associated addresses or other account profile information. It is also advisable to identify potential email addresses, social media accounts, and other web-based account information.

When analyzing these documents, keep the following tips in mind:

  • For financial accounts identified, get the electronic statements directly from the source when possible. This helps ensure the integrity of the information. Also, if possible, obtain the information in electronic format so it can be ingested into various search and analysis tools.
  • Tax returns provide information concerning wages, business income, and investment income. They can identify the existence of both real and personal property and the possibility of foreign accounts or trusts. As tax returns reveal sources of income, tie them to specific accounts. For example, if the interest income is listed on the return, but no account is identified, investigate to find an institution, account number, and the related statements.
  • If a business is uncovered, in addition to identifying all financial accounts related to that business, try to obtain the articles of organization and/or other ownership information for that business. This can help identify, among many things, parties involved in illegal activity and other businesses a suspect is associated with, and it can even help identify any hidden assets.
  • Investment accounts have long been a popular vehicle to transfer and/or launder illegal funds through the purchase and subsequent sale of financial products and commodities. 
  • Reviewing pay stubs from the relevant period cannot only identify multiple bank accounts, but it can also help identify and/or support any unusual spending behavior and other financial activity.
  • Mobile payments through providers such as PayPal and Venmo have become increasingly popular and provide another avenue to divert funds and hide assets. The transaction history for these accounts should be obtained not only for this reason but in addition, it provides a paper trail of both the origin and recipient of funds that could uncover hidden accounts or parties associated with fraud or illegal activity.
  • Depending on the jurisdiction (state, county, city) real property records including deeds, liens and other documents identifying ownership of assets are publicly available information. These records can be used to identify any assets not previously reported without the request of a subpoena.
  • If a recent credit report can be obtained, it can be a useful document to help identify a large portion of these items in a consolidated format.

With all information gathered, the next step is a funds-tracing exercise to analyze deposits to, and withdrawals from, each of the identified accounts. Funds tracing may reveal even more accounts for which statements should be obtained and funds traced. Update the account master list to reflect any new accounts discovered and to record all deposits, withdrawals and other activity for each account.

When conducting a funds tracing, remember the following:

  • Develop a thorough list of the suspect’s family members and acquaintances, including names, aliases, and addresses, and match those names against account statements and transactions to determine if any related parties received funds. Close attention should be paid to any financial transactions with the suspect’s parents, children, siblings, romantic partners and any of their respective businesses.
  • Any unusual transfers or expenditures deserve special attention, as well as recurring deposits from a bank or brokerage in any amount. This could uncover dividend-paying stocks or interest-paying bonds.
  • A review of canceled checks will not only tell to whom the checks were paid, but also to what account number and institution the check was deposited, which can lead to new hidden accounts. Again, pay special attention to checks to family members and acquaintances or for unusual activities or amounts.
  • An analysis of ATM withdrawals or credit card cash advances, including aggregate amounts and the locations made, may indicate areas where the suspect is spending a large amount of time and possibly working to hide assets in secret accounts. Ask for explanations for any large cash withdrawals, whether through an ATM or in person.

Digital forensic analysis is another powerful tool for tracking down hidden assets. Whether it’s a work computer, personal computer, tablet or smart phone, any activity performed on the device can leave a trail of evidence. More sophisticated suspects may use encryption, wiping programs and private or remote web-browsing sessions to hide this evidence, but such steps on their own can help indicate fraud.

Digital forensic efforts to uncover hidden accounts focus on a variety of areas, including:

  • Email contents— Investigators can conduct keyword searches using names of suspected co-conspirators, romantic partners, family members, business dealings, business names, known code words or any other word or words that might be of interest to the investigator. They can also search for key information, such as new account setup forms, details or confirmations related to wire transfers, mobile payments, details of new business ventures or other case-specific information.
  • Accounting or budgeting software programs—A suspect who is a business owner or key accounting employee may be keeping multiple sets of books. Even if deleted, these may be recovered via digital forensic analysis and lead to unknown accounts.
  • Spreadsheets and other files—Suspects often keep track of account numbers and other information in spreadsheets or other files. 
  • Browsing history—Most internet browsers log information pertaining to website visits, as well as other internet activities, such as the completion of web-based forms and temporary internet files. A digital forensic specialist may uncover visits to bank or brokerage websites that may lead to unidentified accounts. Internet activity can also show information relating to online purchasing and payment activity, which could be useful in identifying expenditures and other potential assets.
  • Metadata analysis—Artifacts contained within documents (Word, Excel, PDFs), such as created and modified times, username and company name, can also help uncover fraud.
  • Registry analysis—Certain artifacts stored in the registry, such as USB connection information, network, and login information also can help in an investigation.
  • Mobile devices—Forensic specialists can analyze call logs, SMS messaging, and in some cases, email and email attachments. In addition, users tend to use these devices to access and monitor various assets such as financial accounts, online payment, etc.
  • Online social media activity, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites—An analysis of a suspect’s public profile and activity may uncover a hidden business or other interests, which may lead to other unknown accounts. In addition, people frequently post information and pictures of new assets (i.e., cars, boats, etc.) on social media sites. This can lead investigators to potential assets and also help with documenting large expenditures.

By forensically preserving the electronic evidence (computer hard drive, mobile device, etc.) a number of potential data sources might become available. Included in this forensically preserved data might be previously deleted files, multiple versions or iterations of files, indications of files and programs being accessed. All of these items could provide leads for additional sources of information or indications of the user accessing or deleting data.

While this is not exhaustive, it does provide a useful overview for tracking down hidden accounts. Keep in mind that accounts are not the only places where fraudulent gains can be hidden.

However, a thorough search for, and careful analysis of, hidden accounts should be a central part of any fraud investigation.

For more information about fraud investigations, contact Brad Koranda at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 612-376-9387.

RSM’s purpose is to deliver the power of being understood to our clients, colleagues, and communities through world-class audit, tax and consulting services focused on middle market businesses. For more information, visit rsmus.com.

As a partner with RSM's Forensic and Valuation Services group, Brad Koranda provides strategic advisory and financial services to companies across a broad scope of industries, including business and professional services, real estate, manufacturing, distribution, technology, insurance, investment management, life sciences, health care, and financial services sectors.
Categorized in Investigative Research

Source: This article was Published forbes.com By Lee Mathews - Contributed by Member: James Gill

The Internet is a very leaky place. Security researchers find new servers spilling private data with alarming regularity. Some incidents have involved well-known, reputable companies. This one does not. It involves a server that helped cyber criminals run a massive SPAM campaign.

While investigating massive spam-producing malware network, security researchers at Vertek Corporation made an unexpected discovery. One of the servers linked to the malware hadn't been properly secured. Anyone who had the IP address of the server could connect at will and download a massive cache of email addresses.

Vertek tallied more than 44 million addresses in total. Of those, more than 43,500,000 were unique. The data was broken down into just over 2,200 files with each one containing more than 20,000 entries.

Bleeping Computer was provided with a list that broke down which email services were the most popular with the spammers. Yahoo addresses were the most common, at nearly 9 million. AOL was a close second at just over 8 million. Comcast addresses were the third most common at around 780,000.

The numbers fall sharply after that, with none breaking half a million. Many of the addresses that appear are provided by ISPs like AT&T, Charter, Cox, and SBC. Curiously enough, very few Gmail accounts were listed. Bleeping Computer thinks that may be because the database Vertek was able to access only contained part of the spam server's address book. It's also possible that these particular domains were chosen to target a specific type of user.

Vertek's researchers have shared their findings with Troy Hunt, who is analyzing the list against the already massive database he maintains at the breach notification service HaveIBeenPwned.

It wouldn't be at all surprising if Hunt discovers that all 43 million addresses were already exposed by other leaks or hacks. Why? Because at least two other leaks from spam-linked servers contained way, way more.

In August of last year, Hunt processed a whopping 711 million addresses from a compromised server. Many of those, he determined, had been dumped before. The biggest leak involving a SPAM service involved twice as many emails. MacKeeper's Chris Vickery discovered a mind-blowing 1.4 billion addresses exposed by a shady server.

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Source: This article was published thefix.com By Beth Leipholtz - Contributed by Member: Wushe Zhiyang

Researchers found that since the prescription opioid crackdown began, dark web sales for the targeted medications have steadily increased.

Rules meant to crack down on the use of opioids have instead turned some individuals to the black market, a new study has found.

UPI reports that in 2014, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) put new regulations on hydrocodone (e.g. Vicodin), making it more difficult to prescribe and taking away automatic refill options.

From mid-2013 to mid-2015, the number of prescriptions decreased greatly. 

However, some individuals had found another way to access the medications: the internet. Research published in the journal BMJ revealed that since the new regulations were put in place, more people are buying opioids online without a prescription, using “software-encrypted online portals that permit illegal sales and elude regulators.”

Researchers found that in the four years since 2014, opioid sales on the dark web have increased by about 4% annually. 

"This [DEA] action did have the hoped-for effect of reducing the number of prescriptions issued for these products," study author Judith Aldridge, a professor of criminology at the University of Manchester in England, told UPI. "[But] our team found that sales on the so-called 'dark net' of opioid prescription medications increased following the DEA's initiative.”

Aldridge also says it was beyond the one type of medication. 

"And this increase was not just observed for medications containing hydrocodone,” she said. “We also saw increased dark-net sales for products containing much stronger opioids, like oxycodone (OxyContin) and fentanyl.”

A team of investigators used “web crawler” software to look in-depth at 31 "cryptomarkets" that operated before and after the new regulations. In doing so, they found minimal changes to the sales of sedatives, steroids, stimulants or illegal opioids (ones that are not prescribed by medical professionals).

On the other hand, investigators found that dark web sales of prescription opioids had increased in overall sales in 2016, making up about 14% of the sales. They also found that of those, more purchases were made for fentanyl than hydrocodone. In 2014, fentanyl had been the least popular dark web prescription opioid, but in 2016 it was the second most popular.

According to researchers, one difficulty with dark web sales is that they are more complicated to monitor. 

"Solutions here are not simple," Aldridge said. "However, we know very well that our results were entirely predictable. Solutions must combine cutting supply and tackling demand at the same time. This requires making prevention and treatment grounded in good science available for all."

Categorized in Deep Web

Search engines are an intrinsic part of the array of commonly used “open source” research tools. Together with social media, domain name look-ups and more traditional solutions such as newspapers and telephone directories, effective web searching will help you find vital information to support your investigation.

Many people find that search engines often bring up disappointing results from dubious sources. A few tricks, however, can ensure that you corner the pages you are looking for, from sites you can trust. The same goes for searching social networks and other sources to locate people: A bit of strategy and an understanding of how to extract what you need will improve results.

This chapter focuses on three areas of online investigation:

  1. Effective web searching.
  2. Finding people online.
  3. Identifying domain ownership.

1. Effective web searching

Search engines like Google don’t actually know what web pages are about. They do, however, know the words that are on the pages. So to get a search engine to behave itself, you need to work out which words are on your target pages.

First off, choose your search terms wisely. Each word you add to the search focuses the results by eliminating results that don’t include your chosen keywords.

Some words are on every page you are after. Other words might or might not be on the target page. Try to avoid those subjective keywords, as they can eliminate useful pages from the results.

Use advanced search syntax.

Most search engines have useful so-called hidden features that are essential to helping focus your search and improve results.

Optional keywords

If you don’t have definite keywords, you can still build in other possible keywords without damaging the results. For example, pages discussing heroin use in Texas might not include the word “Texas”; they may just mention the names of different cities. You can build these into your search as optional keywords by separating them with the word OR (in capital letters).

You can use the same technique to search for different spellings of the name of an individual, company or organization.

Search by domain

You can focus your search on a particular site by using the search syntax “site:” followed by the domain name.

For example, to restrict your search to results from Twitter:

To add Facebook to the search, simply use “OR” again:

You can use this technique to focus on a particular company’s website, for example. Google will then return results only from that site.

You can also use it to focus your search on municipal and academic sources, too. This is particularly effective when researching countries that use unique domain types for government and university sites.

Note: When searching academic websites, be sure to check whether the page you find is written or maintained by the university, one of its professors or one of the students. As always, the specific source matters.

Searching for file types

Some information comes in certain types of file formats. For instance, statistics, figures and data often appear in Excel spreadsheets. Professionally produced reports can often be found in PDF documents. You can specify a format in your search by using “filetype:” followed by the desired data file extension (xls for spreadsheet, docx for Word documents, etc.).

2. Finding people

Groups can be easy to find online, but it’s often trickier to find an individual person. Start by building a dossier on the person you’re trying to locate or learn more about. This can include the following:

  • The person’s name, bearing in mind:

    • Different variations (does James call himself “James,” “Jim,” “Jimmy” or “Jamie”?).
    • The spelling of foreign names in Roman letters (is Yusef spelled “Yousef” or “Yusuf”?).
    • Did the names change when a person married?
    • Do you know a middle name or initial?
  • The town the person lives in and or was born in.

  • The person’s job and company.

  • Their friends and family members’ names, as these may appear in friends and follower lists.

  • The person’s phone number, which is now searchable in Facebook and may appear on web pages found in Google searches.

  • Any of the person’s usernames, as these are often constant across various social networks.

  • The person’s email address, as these may be entered into Facebook to reveal linked accounts. If you don’t know an email address, but have an idea of the domain the person uses, sites such as email-format can help you guess it.

  • A photograph, as this can help you find the right person, if the name is common.

Advanced social media searches: Facebook

Facebook’s newly launched search tool is amazing. Unlike previous Facebook searches, it will let you find people by different criteria including, for the first time, the pages someone has Liked. It also enables you to perform keyword searches on Facebook pages.

This keyword search, the most recent feature, sadly does not incorporate any advanced search filters (yet). It also seems to restrict its search to posts from your social circle, their favorite pages and from some high-profile accounts.

Aside from keywords in posts, the search can be directed at people, pages, photos, events, places, groups and apps. The search results for each are available in clickable tabs.

For example, a simple search for Chelsea will find bring up related pages and posts in the Posts tab:

The People tab brings up people named Chelsea. As with the other tabs, the order of results is weighted in favor of connections to your friends and favorite pages.

The Photos tab will bring up photos posted publicly, or posted by friends that are related to the word Chelsea (such as Chelsea Clinton, Chelsea Football Club or your friends on a night out in the Chelsea district of London).

The real investigative value of Facebook’s search becomes apparent when you start focusing a search on what you really want.

For example, if you are investigating links between extremist groups and football, you might want to search for people who like The English Defence League and Chelsea Football Club. To reveal the results, remember to click on the “People” tab.

This search tool is new and Facebook are still ironing out the creases, so you may need a few attempts at wording your search. That said, it is worth your patience.

Facebook also allows you to add all sorts of modifiers and filters to your search. For example, you can specify marital status, sexuality, religion, political views, pages people like, groups they have joined and areas they live or grew up in. You can specify where they studied, what job they do and which company they work for. You can even find the comments that someone has added to uploaded photos. You can find someone by name or find photos someone has been tagged in. You can list people who have participated in events and visited named locations. Moreover, you can combine all these factors into elaborate, imaginative, sophisticated searches and find results you never knew possible. That said, you may find still better results searching the site via search engines like Google (add “site:facebook.com” to the search box).

Advanced social media searches: Twitter

Many of the other social networks allow advanced searches that often go far beyond the simple “keyword on page” search offered by sites such as Google. Twitter’s advanced search, for example, allows you to trace conversations between users and add a date range to your search.

Twitter allows third-party sites to use its data and create their own exciting searches.
Followerwonk, for example, lets you search Twitter bios and compare different users. Topsy has a great archive of tweets, along with other unique functionality.

Advanced social media searches: LinkedIn

LinkedIn will let you search various fields including location, university attended, current company, past company or seniority.

You have to log in to LinkedIn in order to use the advanced search, so remember to check your privacy settings. You wouldn’t want to leave traceable footprints on the profile of someone you are investigating!

You can get into LinkedIn’s advanced search by clicking on the link next to the search box. Be sure, also, to select “3rd + Everyone Else” under relationship. Otherwise , your search will include your friends and colleagues and their friends.

LinkedIn was primarily designed for business networking. Its advanced search seems to have been designed primarily for recruiters, but it is still very useful for investigators and journalists. Personal data exists in clearly defined subject fields, so it is easy to specify each element of your search.

You can enter normal keywords, first and last names, locations, current and previous employers, universities and other factors. Subscribers to their premium service can specify company size and job role.

LinkedIn will let you search various fields including location, university attended, current company, past company and seniority.

Other options

Sites like Geofeedia and Echosec allow you to find tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, Flickr and Instagram photos that were sent from defined locations. Draw a box over a region or a building and reveal the social media activity. Geosocialfootprint.com will plot a Twitter user’s activity onto a map (all assuming the users have enabled location for their accounts).

Additionally, specialist “people research” tools like Pipl and Spokeo can do a lot of the hard legwork for your investigation by searching for the subject on multiple databases, social networks and even dating websites. Just enter a name, email address or username and let the search do the rest. Another option is to use the multisearch tool from Storyful. It’s a browser plugin for Chrome that enables you to enter a single search term, such as a username, and get results from Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Spokeo. Each site opens in a new browser tab with the relevant results.

Searching by profile pic

People often use the same photo as a profile picture for different social networks. This being the case, a reverse image search on sites like TinEye and Google Images, will help you identify linked accounts.

3. Identifying domain ownership

Many journalists have been fooled by malicious websites. Since it’s easy for anyone to buy an unclaimed .com, .net or .org site, we should not go on face value. A site that looks well produced and has authentic-sounding domain name may still be a political hoax, false company or satirical prank.

Some degree of quality control can be achieved by examining the domain name itself. Google it and see what other people are saying about the site. A “whois” search is also essential. DomainTools.com is one of many sites that offers the ability to perform a whois search. It will bring up the registration details given by the site owner the domain name was purchased.

For example, the World Trade Organization was preceded by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades (GATT). There are, apparently, two sites representing the WTO. There’s wto.org (genuine) and gatt.org (a hoax). A mere look at the site hosted at gatt.org should tell most researchers that something is wrong, but journalists have been fooled before.

A whois search dispels any doubt by revealing the domain name registration information. Wto.org is registered to the International Computing Centre of the United Nations. Gatt.org, however, is registered to “Andy Bichlbaum” from the notorious pranksters the Yes Men.

Whois is not a panacea for verification. People can often get away with lying on a domain registration form. Some people will use an anonymizing service like Domains by Proxy, but combining a whois search with other domain name and IP address tools forms a valuable weapon in the battle to provide useful material from authentic sources.

 Source: This article was published verificationhandbook.com By Paul Myers

Categorized in Investigative Research

How do you research thoroughly, save time, and get directly to the source you wish to find? GIJN’s Research Director Gary Price, who is also editor of InfoDOCKET, and Margot Williams, research editor for investigations at The Intercept, shared their Top 100 Research Tools. Overwhelmed with information; we asked Williams and Price to refine their tools and research strategies down to a Top 10.

What are the bare-essentials for an investigative journalist?

1. Security and Privacy  Security tools have never been more important. There is so much information that you give out without even knowing it. Arm yourself with knowledge. Be aware of privacy issues and learn how to modify your own traceability. This is paramount for your own security and privacy. Price and Williams recommend using Tor and Disconnect.me for sites that will block others from tracing your browsing history.

More: 

2. Find Specialized Sites and Databases  Do not run a generalized blind search. Think about who will have the information that you want to find. Get precise about your keywords. Does the file you are looking for even exist online? Or do you have to get it yourself in some way? Will you have to find an archive? Or get a first person interview? Fine tuning your research process will save you a lot of time.

3. Stay Current Price highly recommends Website Watcher. This tool automates the entire search process by monitoring your chosen web pages, and sends you instant updates when there are changes in the site. This tool allows you to stay current, with little effort. No more refreshing a webpage over and over again.

4. Read from Back to Front Where do you start looking for information? Do you start reading the headline or the footnotes? Most people start with the headline, however Williams gives an inside tip; she always start at the footnotes. The footnotes inform the articles body, and you can get straight to your information, without obtaining any bias from the author.

5. Create Your Own Archive Wayback Machine is a digital archive of the web. This site makes you see archived versions of web pages across time. Most importantly, Price recommended that you use this site to develop your own personal archive. A feature of the Wayback Machine now allows you to archive most webpages and pdf files. Do not keep all your sources on a site you might not always be able to access.

You can now keep the files not only in your own hard drive, but you share them online. Another useful resource for archiving is Zotero, a personal information management tool. Watch here for Price teaching how to use this incredible archive and information management tool. You can also form your own data with IFTTT. Gary Price teaches us how to do this here:

6.Pop up Archive Sick of scanning through podcasts and videos in order to get the information you need? Audio and Video searches are becoming increasingly popular, and can save you an incredible amount of time. This can be done with search engines like Popup Archive and C-SPAN.

7.Ignore Mainstream Media Reports Williams ignores sites like Reddit at all costs. These sites can lead your research astray, and you can become wrapped in knowledge that might later be deemed as false. Price is also wary of Wikipedia, for obvious reasons; any person, anywhere at anytime can change a story as they see fit. Stay curious, and keep digging.

8.Marine Traffic Marinetraffic.com makes it possible to track any kind of boat and real-time ship locations, port arrivals and departures. You can also see the track of the boats and follow the path to any vessel movement. Check out Price’s tutorial video of FlightAware, a data search that traces real time and historical flight movements.

9.Foreign Influence Explorer Needing to find sources on governments and money tracking? Foreign Influence Explorer will make your searches incredibly easy. This search engine makes it possible to track disclosures as they become available, and allows you to find out what people or countries have given money to, with the exact time and dates.

10.If you are going to use Google… Use it well. Google’s potential is rarely reached. For a common search engine, you can get extremely specific results if you know how. Williams explains that the Congress has a terrible search engine on their site, but if you use google you can better refine your search by typing your keywords next to “site:(URL)”. You can even get the time and date it was published by further specialising. Watch a video demonstration of a Google advance search feature here.

Source : gijc2015.org

Categorized in Investigative Research

SASKATOON—Hours after Cheyenne Antoine, 20, made her first court appearance for second-degree murder in the death of Brittney Gargol, a photo was discovered of the two posing together just hours before Gargol’s death.

The social media post by Gargol to her Facebook page was her last – the 18-year-old would later be discovered at 6 a.m. on March 25, 2015 dying on a quiet country road on the outskirts of Saskatoon.

At the time police were unsure of Gargol’s identity – today it’s hard to say how much this photo played into Antoine’s arrest, but what is clear is how social media is increasingly being used by police during investigations.

“You can go into social media and find out almost anything about anybody.” said Superintendent Dave Haye of the Saskatoon Police Service.

According to Haye, an officer is assigned to scour social media for clues in any major investigation.

“It could range from a serious assault, to a homicide, even to commercial crime.”

Depending on your privacy settings, anyone can track your movements or access your photos and posts – which could even be presented in court.

“They can provide both an alibi for themselves at times; they can provide some great assistance to your defence,” said criminal defense lawyer Brian Pfefferle.

“But it can also provide corroboration to a Crown theory that could cause difficulty [in] defending yourself.”

Pfefferle has even refrained from calling on his client to testify if he knows police have already obtained prejudicial information on them.

“Lawyers have to be very careful that they’re not advising clients to delete or destroy evidence that is already existing online – however, changing the privacy settings are a different story.”

Pfefferle says it would be naive to think members of a jury don’t search for information on an accused even if they’re instructed not to. He’s even used social media to dig up information for his own cross-examinations.

“We regularly are able to access intimate details about complainants and witnesses in cases,” Pfefferle said.

“When we get jury lists, we’ll regularly go through the list and attempt to see information that’s available to the world through social media.”

Is someone racist or sexist? Have they ever said anything highly prejudicial on social media? Those are all important questions when preparing for a case to go to trial.

“Your reputation in the community is something that can definitely affect your right to a fair trial,” Pfefferle said. “We have a system that is one of the best in the world, but it is still subject to human bias.”

The court of public opinion is another a significant hurdle for defence counsel to overcome once an accused has been charged and there is media coverage of the case.

According to Pfefferle, “live tweeting” – or play-by-play reporting – by reporters during a trial can help the public fully understand why someone is found guilty or not guilty by a judge or jury.

Author : Meaghan Craig

Source : http://globalnews.ca/news/3300102/brittney-gargol-fb-post-law-court/

Categorized in Social

Hoping to scour through public records and expose corruption, crime or wrongdoing? The Investigative Dashboard might be your best bet.

Developed by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), Investigative Dashboard contains a number of tools and resources meant to make it easier for journalists and civil society researchers to investigate and expose corrupt individuals and businesses. Its investigative tools include databasesvisualization tools, and a search engine.

Journalists can also access the dashboard’s catalog of external databases, which links to more than 400 online databases in 120 countries and jurisdictions — from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

We spoke with developer Friedrich Lindenberg about getting started with the dashboard and using these tools to their full potential:

Searching for leads

Investigative Dashboard’s database houses more than 4 million documents, data sources and more that are sorted into 141 collections.

Journalists can use a custom-built search tool, Aleph — which Lindenberg built himself — to search the database either by specific terms related to their investigation or by category.

“Often as a journalist, you want to find out ‘Where can I find information about this person or this company?’” Lindenberg said. “What you want then is a place where you can search as many data sources as possible. That's why we're bringing together a lot of government data, corporate records and other kinds of information from previous investigations that we have exclusive access to, and all of that is searchable.”

Additionally, journalists can get email alerts for their chosen search terms so they’ll always be notified of new developments regarding the individuals or companies they’re investigating.

“As we get more and more data, what we can quite easily do is run your list of people that you're interested in against all these sources and see if there's new leads popping up,” Lindenberg said. “One of the things we're trying to do with Aleph is create incentives for people to write down names of people they’ve investigated previously or would like to know more about. Then we will continuously send you a feed of stuff that we dig up.”

Mapping and visualizing

Investigative Dashboard links to Visual Investigative Scenarios (VIS), a free data visualization platform built to show networks of business, corruption or crime, turning complex narratives into easy-to-understand visual depictions.

Journalists can input entities like people, companies, political parties or criminal organizations, then draw connections between them and attach documents as evidence. Once a visualization is complete, it can be exported for online, print or broadcast use.

Research support

Journalists can also directly ask OCCRP researchers to help them investigate companies or individuals of interest. OCCRP has access to certain commercial databases that may be prohibitively expensive for some journalists to use. While users can’t access these commercial databases via the Dashboard, OCCRP researchers are there to lend a helping hand, Lindenberg explained.

“One of the cool parts of this is that basically, as OCCRP, we've purchased subscriptions to some commercial databases that are otherwise inaccessible to journalists,” he said. “We can't give everybody access to them because then we'd break the terms of service, but what we can do is have our researchers look up the things you might be interested and then give you back the documents they find there.”

Once users with a Dashboard account submit a ticket describing the person or entity they’re investigating, OCCRP researchers will search these databases to see what, if anything, comes up.

Uploading files

OCCRP encourages journalists to upload their own documents and data using its personal archive tool. After creating an account, journalists can upload documents, create watchlists and organize their research. By default, all uploaded documents are private, but users can share their documents with others or make them public if they choose.

To make sure no false data or documents are uploaded to Aleph, OCCRP bots periodically crawl through public documents to verify and cross-reference them, Lindenberg explained.

Author : Sam Berkhead

Source : http://ijnet.org/en/blog/journalists-investigating-corruption-free-tool-offers-millions-searchable-documents

Categorized in Investigative Research
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