A summary of some of the most practical tools for data collection and analysis available publicly from Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms
Social media sites are a nearly bottomless source of information that nearly anyone can use for security and intelligence research, as well as for marketing campaigns. The platforms allow anyone to learn more about other people, their interests, experiences and affiliations, while organizations can easily explore the site to gain insight into customer sentiment or to predict consumer behavior.
It’s no surprise that techniques like Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) are growing in popularity. Today, there are many tools that automate the collection and analysis of public data about internet users. These techniques also apply specifically to social media intelligence, sometimes called SOCMINT.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the tools that can help with your social media intelligence efforts. Importantly, they are also a testament to the importance of being vigilant about the type of information we share online.
Let’s start with the easiest. Apart from checking the availability of usernames on various online platforms, Namechk lets you easily search for someone’s persona online. To do this, simply enter a username and Namechk will comb various online platforms to find user profiles that match the information provided. This is useful for researchers, journalists, businesses and government agencies who want to collect online information about a person or people who want to reconnect with long lost friends or acquaintances.
Sherlock is an open source command line tool developed in Python that, like Namechk, searches for a specific username on the most popular social networks before outputting a link to the profile. It has no interface and is accessed via a Windows, Linux or MacOS command terminal. For more information and installation guides, see GitHub repository from Project Sherlock.
accountant analysis used to conduct OSINT research with a focus on Twitter. It generates a report which is an at-a-glance view of an account’s public information, including followers and accounts followed, frequency of tweets, number of interactions, times of greatest activity, most used hashtags, and more.
This data is useful for drawing all kinds of conclusions: From learning more about people’s tastes or opinions to checking whether it’s an automated user or a bot (e.g., based on posting schedules) to finding accounts that have malicious intent for promoting their sites with a bad reputation.
Maltego is one of the most famous and most powerful tools in the OSINT world. It uses graphics to represent information, which allows you to create relationship diagrams to identify patterns and find hidden connections. It also stands out for the number of sources it uses.
The most frequently used feature is the one that allows to identify and visualize the relationship between the entities called by the tool, such as IP addresses, domain names, e-mails, social network users, etc. In addition, Maltego allows you to integrate various information sources, such as databases, online search tools, APIs, etc.
When creating a new graph within the tool, we may include entities or data that are already known about the target, such as a commonly used email, username or full name. And with help”change”, Maltego will add related entities to the first.
For example, in the following image we see some of the entities that result from a search “ESET Latinoamérica”. Among other things, the tool restores ESET’s social networks and related sites, including WeLiveSecurity.
From the newly discovered entity it is possible to re-run the transformation. The following image shows that digging into the resulting Instagram profile returns files stored on the Wayback Machine.
Malta, available for download from the official siteis a desktop application that offers a free (but limited) license and an unlimited paid version at the user and corporate level.
Social media as a search engine
OK, it’s not what you’d think of as an OSINT tool, but the search functionality integrated into social media sites can double as a powerful resource for information gathering – without leaving the app itself. This is especially the case if the target of your research is a close or famous person. Some useful options are:
- Profile search: Search for the full name and other relevant details of the person you’re researching to find their profile on social networks and view their public activity, such as posts and photos shared.
- Hashtag search: Use relevant hashtags to find posts related to the person you’re researching. For example, if you’re looking for information about an event, you can search for hashtags associated with that event and see if the person has shared information about it.
- Group search: Check if the person you are researching is a member of any group on social networks, as this can provide additional information about their interests and activities.
- Mention search: Look for mentions of the person you’re researching on social networks, to see if others are talking about them and get more information about their online reputation and relationships.
When using OSINT tools, be sure to implement certain measures to ensure that the privacy and security of individuals and the information collected is respected. This is why we recommend:
- Know the law: It is important to be aware of local and national laws and regulations regarding the collection and use of public information to ensure that you do not commit a crime or violate the privacy of others.
- Respect people’s privacy: It is important not to collect personal or confidential information without the explicit consent of the affected person.
- Information verification: It is important to verify the correctness and relevance of information collected before using it for any purpose.
- Maintain security: When collecting and storing information, it is important to take steps to protect it from possible data theft or breach.
OSINT tools for social media research can be very useful, but they also remind us of the importance of protecting information that we don’t want available or that could be used for malicious purposes.
Be careful what you post online and avoid sharing details from your personal life on social media.