Locating Missing People: A Crowdsourced and Global Use of OSINT

Over the Easter weekend a team of Neotas Analysts participated in the Tracelabs Global Missing Persons Capture The Flag competition. The aim of the competition is to use Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) to help locate missing people around the world. Information identified ranges from social media profiles to deep web documents and dark web databases, with more points scored depending on the relevance of the information. At the end of the 6 hours, the information is collated and sent to law enforcement to assist with their search.

With the competition hosted in Canada, the Neotas team worked between 11pm to 5am using a spectrum of investigative OSINT techniques to locate information relating to 15 different missing people. Each person was unique, with their own online presence, relationships, hobbies and story. One case led to social media profiles under a completely different name, whilst forum posts displaying personal and sensitive information were uncovered for another individual. In some cases, significant individuals were identified, including people with whom one individual had started talking online a few days before going missing. Previous addresses and vehicles were submitted, as well as information posted by strangers relating to the day the person was last seen. All of this information is useful to law enforcement in building possible leads.

At the end of the 6 hours, and after 168 submissions deemed beneficial to law enforcement, the team finished the competition in 7th place. The top 10 finish is an incredible result in only our second global OSINT competition, and is an improvement on the 12th place finish in our debut. Other teams to feature in the top 50 included Cyber Security specialists, experienced hackers, leading private investigators and law enforcement officers. Each of the 177 teams used their skills to do OSINT For Good and have contributed to a very important cause.

A huge thank you to Tracelabs and all the volunteers for running such a successful event. Neotas will definitely be back next time, aiming for another top 10 finish and crucially another chance to assist law enforcement in bringing people home safely.

Statistics showing the sources of data that Neotas' team pulled from during their OSINT investigations for the competition


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