By: Mike A. Bryan
Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to find some information about a person, place, or thing but don’t know where to start? Then this blog is for you! OSINT stands for “open source intelligence” and can be used to gather information on a person by using a few simple tools on the internet. According to Wikipedia, “Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is data collected from publicly available sources to be used in an intelligence context. In the intelligence community, the term “open” refers to overt, publicly available sources (as opposed to covert or clandestine sources). It is not related to open-source software or collective intelligence.
OSINT under one name or another has been around for hundreds of years. With the advent of instant communications and rapid information transfer, a great deal of actionable and predictive intelligence can now be obtained from public, unclassified sources.”
Believe it or not, basically everything you have ever done is on the internet, including addresses, employers, emails, phone numbers, and oftentimes even more personally identifiable information. So, the next time you meet that person at a networking event and forget to get their contact information, you can use these tools to find their email and phone number. Or if you have other information about a person and want to use that to search for their phone, email, or address, these sites have multiple search options.
OSINT can also be used to extract metadata from images. Once the metadata has been collected, you can determine when and where the picture was taken, the type of camera, and other relevant information. Secret, encrypted messages can also be stored in images, making them a perfect example for using OSINT tools. In general, OSINT refers to collecting information about something or someone using freely available websites and softwares. Overall, the three OSINT search sites listed below can return information on just about anyone in our country, and possibly other countries as well.
This website has existed since 2017 and offers access to people’s contact information such as email addresses, associated names, previous and current addresses, previous and current phone numbers, and even possible relatives and associates. You can choose to run a full background check through BeenVerified.com, but that charges a monthly membership fee and takes a bit of time to complete. If you do need to run a background check on someone, BeenVerified.com is a site used by millions of people, so it has a good reputation and is probably worth the price.
With TruePeopleSearch.com, you can search by a person’s name, reverse phone, or reverse address. That means if you have a person’s name, phone, or address, you can most likely find them on this site. The site is totally free and was built by a group of tech veterans, making it very user-friendly. You can use it to find just about anyone in the U.S. but not outside of our country. Overall, I would rate this site a solid 8.5 out of 10.
According to their website, ThatsThem was launched in 2014 to give users a free tool to easily find people by using the information you know about them. You can search for people by name and address, phone number, just the address, an email address, or an IP address. ThatsThem returns a wealth of information, including address, phone number, email address, length of residence, household size, IP address, age range, estimated net worth, estimated income, education, occupation, language, and then it scores each person on wealth, green, donor, travel, tech, and shopping.
A background search is offered through this site as well, but they use BeenVerified.com just like the first example. Of course, the same rules apply to using BeenVerified.com through their site, so there is a monthly membership fee. There is no fee to use ThatsThem.com and they do not make money off of selling personally identifiable information. I would give this site a 9 out of 10 due to the wealth of information it provides and the different ways you can search for people.
- RocketReach.co and Rocket Reach Chrome extension
RocketReach was founded in 2015 and is both a website and a Chrome extension, and is really easy to use either way. This site also has a paid version, with access to over 1.5 billion records, but the free version has information on 250 million professionals, across 6 million companies worldwide. On the site, you can search by name/keyword, location, job title, employer, education, other, and company. RocketReach returns the person’s title and employer, location, work history, education, skills, and email address history.
If you use the browser extension, you can find people’s emails on Linkedln, Sales Navigator, AngelList, CrunchBase, Google, or almost any other website. I prefer the browser extension over the website, due to the quickness of the information offered by the extension. RocketReach doesn’t offer as much information on searches, so I only give this one an 7.5 out of 10, but it is still worth downloading if you are doing open source intelligence work or just need to find people’s contact information quickly and easily.
Now that you have learned more about what OSINT is, seen three simple, easy-to-use OSINT tools that are free online, you can use these tools to gather information on just about anyone in our country. You also can gather metadata from images and find secret messages sometimes buried in them. Both of these forms of OSINT are super popular and utilized by people the world over. Always remember the rules of Netiquette when searching for someone — do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and be sure to respect other people’s privacy.