The Parler data breach opened up sensitive private data to millions of users, some potentially part of the groups of rioters who stormed Capitol Hill.

Image for post
Image for post

After Amazon suspended the platform's Webhosting, Parler went dark on Monday. Apple and Google said Parler was removed from app stores because the operators have failed to moderate posts which encouraged violence and crime.

Hackers tried to rescue as much data as possible. This may have led to millions of records being released.

Important correction: data was accessed but there was some misinformation that was repeated by some OSINT contacts, which turned out to be false:

The Reddit rumor that hackers gained access to more private data on the site — due to SMS provider Twilio cutting ties with Parler and disabling its two-factor authentication — was “bullshit,” @donk_enby told WIRED.


What happened last week in Washington, D.C. shows there is a need for journalists to be able to recognize who belongs to right-wing domestic terrorist groups. Below some OSINT tools that aid along the way and how to use them.

Image for post
Image for post
Dreamstime

This week was overshadowed by the events at Capitol Hill. What happened? By now well documented, on the west side of the building an angry mob gathered and overpowered a police barrier and scaffolding that were put up for the upcoming inauguration. They entered the building and a number of people died. Members of the mob waved the confederate flag after breaching US capitol security and committed other acts of violence and intrusion.

What stood out was the debate by many online media users about who these people are and who they belong to. On the question of who some of the key people wore and who they are, citizen journalist John Scott-Railton (from CitizenLab) covered in some impressive Twitter threads (here, here with famous investigative reporter…


A visual open-source intelligence (OSINT) investigation and training post on how to track narco planes with open-source intelligence sources (by BH and MB)

Image for post
Image for post
The entrance to Hacienda Napoles (2014), the ranch of drug dealer Pablo Escobar, a Colombian drug kingpin and narcoterrorist who was the founder and sole leader of the Medellín Cartel. He was one of the godfathers of narco plane trafficking which started for him in the mid-70s. He later bought a whole range of bigger airplanes which allegedly also included a Learjet. Atop the entrance gate, a replica of the Piper PA-18 Super Cub airplane with the tail number HK-617-P.

“I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats,” Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, more commonly known as El Chapo, told Rolling Stone magazine in 2016.

The drug kingpin wasn’t exaggerating. For a long time, he and his Sinaloa Cartel owned several times more aircraft than Mexico’s biggest airline. According to public records obtained by Mexican newspaper El Universal, until 2016, the country’s military seized 599 aircraft from the criminal organization. Mexico’s biggest airline-owned 127 back then. According to the U.S. …


A guide for journalists on how to conduct analysis on Europe’s biomass operators and tree cover loss

Image for post
Image for post
“Forest management” — forest clearcutting in Estonia (overlay between high-resolution satellite images and algorithmic produced forest cover loss data)

There is a wealth of lessons in using open-source intelligence techniques to investigate Europe’s biomass industry. The consequences of forest cover loss for the benefit of biomass power generation is at the centre of a recent cross-border investigation and a number of news and research pieces recently discussed forest loss and the link to biomass harvesting (such as this one for National Geographic).

To hold companies accountable, this little guide wants to shed light on how you can produce some valuable insight on the matter with the help of open-source intelligence (OSINT) tools and practices. We will discuss the merit and limits of some satellite data, too. …


Deciphering simple open-source information can help the public to understand where Boeing runs tests of its secretive autonomous Loyal Wingman aircraft, formally known as the Airpower Teaming System (ATS)

Image for post
Image for post
View of camera angle capturing the Boeing’s marketing video (October 21)

This week, Boeing celebrated a successful test of five surrogate jets operating autonomously in a team in Australia. It was executed at the Queensland Flight Test Range in Cloncurry. The test flight range we can find on Google Maps. It matches the Queensland Government brochure, advertising its unmanned aerial systems flight test range program (FTR).

Boeing is pushing hard to move its autonomous flight program forward. …


The second part of this series discusses techniques on how to analyse a dire human rights situation in and around Xinjiang’s re-education and detention facilities.

Image for post
Image for post
A statistical model was used to count the area of factory buildings (green overlay) inside a 1-mile radius around two of Xinjiang detention centres based in Onsu, Aksu

A pressing need to investigate characteristics of Xinjiang’s detention camps

The story has been widely covered. Calls by human rights advocates to define China’s practices as ‘genocide’ grow louder. Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslims detained in internment camps. Many still are.

Inmates undergo months or years of indoctrination and interrogation aimed at transforming them into secular and loyal supporters of the party”, the New York Times wrote and published documents that unmistakably prove a dire human rights situation in the west of China.

First China denied the camps ever existed. Then the Chinese consulate doesn’t bother anymore to play a smoke and mirror game and admits: “Xinjiang has set up vocational education and training centres in order to root out extreme thoughts…”. …


Satellite analysis reveals that water levels of the Chinese Three Gorges Dam exceeded alarming water levels in the past.

Image for post
Image for post
The Three Gorges Dam

A remote sensing analysis found that in late 2018 and 2019, water levels of the Three Gorges dam reservoir has climbed to dangerous water levels. The findings emerged after years of claims by supporters that climate change has no or minimal effect on the basin and its people.

The Chinese Three Gorges dam is the world’s largest power station by the measure of installed capacity, and is hailed as an engineering marvel by its proponents. …


Modern intelligence work - by NSA, British services, and others - increasingly relies on open-source intelligence (OSINT) investigations. Why is demand growing and what does it mean for modern espionage?

Image for post
Image for post
Secureworks records of Mia Ash’s profile images (montage)

When a coy Facebook profile with the name of Mia Ash began to contact men in senior positions — many of them with access to computer networks — it did not arouse any suspicion.

When it turned out to be a trap by Iranian state-sponsored hackers, it may have dawned on some that behind Mia Ash there was something more than an enchanting, young, female photographer.


The first part of this three-part series will explore the value boundaries for satellite investigations. We will zoom in on illegal deforestation monitoring in the Amazon rainforest and discuss illegal fishing.

Image for post
Image for post
The merit of analyzing boundaries to preclude illegal activities

The target audience for this short three-part series on how to use satellite images in your investigative reporting are journalists and anyone who investigates wrongdoing and injustice.

Whether an activity takes place within or outside certain boundaries visible from space can often decide whether you have a case against a party or a government, and therefore a story, or not. As we will see, to investigate we often don’t even need programming skills (it’s certainly the case for this first part, just memory on your machine and a good internet connection. Later parts grow more complex).

Deforestation in South America

In the first example, we will dive into Brazil’s illegal logging practices, affecting climate change and other human rights-related areas. Addressing the problem of illegal deforestation is timely after a range of measures by the Brazilian government heightened concerns among national and international experts. …


OSINT and data analysis of online and social media content reveals how the blocking of Iran’s regional internet connection by its government gagged people’s freedom of speech.

Image for post
Image for post
Protest that may have triggered a provincial internet blockage

Using network disruptions to limit the rights to free expression and free assembly is unadvisable, says NetBlocks.org, a non-government organization that provides tools to the public to observe possible Internet blocks and the economic consequences of censoring websites.

But that’s exactly what NetBlocks thinks the Iranian government is doing again and right now. …

About

Techjournalist

Investigative journalist with a technical edge, interested in open source investigations, satellite imgs, R, python, AI, data journalism and injustice

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store