I'm starting off with a bit of a rant, since Meta has decided to change the way that Facebook is serving its information to its users. They claim it has to do with their way of stopping third parties that are scraping and abusing data. I have my personal thoughts on this, of course, but besides that I also have a few handy tips and tools this week:
This Week in OSINT starts off with some bad news. Facebook has decided it will be starting to 'protect' peoples privacy on their platform. They start very ironically with the sentence:
"As part of an ongoing series about addressing data misuse..."
It's not like the world will forget about their trackers, automatic facial recognition, Cambridge Analytica, their alleged involvement in the PRISM program and other privacy infringements. But it seems that from now on, it will be a bit more work to gather the information from Facebook users and their connections.
That is one of the reasons why I only use tools when I absolutely need to automate repetitive work. Because tools built for social media platforms keep breaking, when important changes like this happen. And about the tools out there, that are able to recreate the network of social interactions within Facebook, this change will be dealt with in time. New ways to extract data will be developed, and Facebook will change things again in a few years. Like a perpetual mobile within the world of online personae.
Early last week someone pointed me to a new that that contains a wealth of enhancements for Discord, and it's open source too! There are several hundred plugins created by anyone that had a need to chance the appearance or working of the app itself. And with lots of plugins, there is a chance there might be some interesting ones out there, that could be used for investigations. Like these three that I found after only spending 30 seconds in the plugin directory:
But there's a lot more, like plugins to quickly save images, a file viewer, copy user banners, status, about me or large avatar image URL and a lot more. If you want to make it even easier, do make sure to install the 'PluginRepo' plugin first, since that will enable you to install plugins straight from the library of plugins. And after you enable the plugins you want in the settings, your Discord experience will be a lot different!
I stumbled upon Telegram.im last week, and it seems to offer some instant messaging button for a website. But besides that, Google also indexed over 70,000 channels that you can browse online, without having the need to actually login into Telegram (and Bing also has over 22,000 for you). Just a quick Google search is needed to find them:
It is pretty much the same as the Telegram preview URL, that can be triggered by adding an 's' in the URL, like:
t.me/s/mkjtalks4investment but it also shows you a larger avatar next to the channel, and on the bottom it has basic statistics on the amount of followers in the last 30 days. The rest of the site contains several options that will force you to login into Telegram, but I've chosen not to go that path and only stay with the original Telegram clients and web apps for the rest.
Last week I received a tip via IntelLana about the mobile Instagram map feature. It used to be directly visible within the 'explore' or search page, but it has moved. It is now hidden somewhere within the search results, but can be accessed when you search for a location, and click on 'places'. After this a map will open up in the mobile app, like in the Android app as can be seen below.
From there, you can zoom in or out, move to any part of the world, and search the local area for content. It will then show you all the stories and content created within that specific location.
OS2INT shared a tip on a new tool that Simon Willison developed, which scrapes five VK based news channels. The tool is able to retrieve historical posts too, and can be searched via basic SQL queries. There is also an online version of all the posts scraped so far, and it contains a total amount of 67,580 posts around the time of publishing this article. The online version also contains the option to run SQL queries, via a simple menu, or even more complex queries by writing your own SQL statements, with the option of adding charts. An awesome tool and online database to find interesting news stories!
Have a good week and have a good search!