Proprietor of private investigation firm Finnegan’s Way, Cynthia Navarro has conducted online investigations for years. Her presentation, “Social Networking in My Pajamas,” will travel through inner workings of search engines, networking sites and under the covers of using internet social networking engineering and tools to gather information:
Who are we going after, what do they look like, where do they go, who are their friends? And sometimes the biggest question, who are we? Understanding the vast amount of information that can be retrieved from the internet and the best tools for the project is your first start.
HTCIA: You say sometimes the biggest question is “Who are we?” Many investigators probably don’t think about that. What do you mean, and how should investigators answer?
CN: It’s important to ask yourself whether you’re giving away yourself, or your persona’s self. We have to think like the folks we’re trying to be, not ourselves – which is not easy! You have to go places and say things that are atypical for you, and you have to be believable.
For example, I once worked a case for a state medical board, and I was able to pretext based on real symptoms. You can choose to be knowledgeable or not, which is easy when your persona is a woman, because people want to help you out. You can also be obvious; when you’re researching for a client, say it’s “for my boss.”
Not everyone is comfortable with pretexting, and when it comes to vocabulary, it can be especially difficult with young people, because you have to stay on top of how they text and email each other.
HTCIA: What’s the difference between search and social engineering, and when should investigators use them? How can they tell when each is appropriate?
CN: Searching is when you are looking for particular information on your subject. If you are able to collect enough information without interaction from your subject then you normal searches via search engines, social networks, websites, business sites etc can work just perfect.
However, if you’re unable to find that information based on your research, then creativity and online social engineering kicks in. You try to be part of the subject’s life/business with the outcome being information.
You may either need direct or indirect contact. Perhaps they have a private social network. You may want to open a profile that would allow you to appear in…say the same industry, circle of friends, interests, or sports. Or possibly become friends with their friends.
You are building on basic information to collect a piece of information here and there to finally have a complete profile on your subject.
HTCIA: How long have you used social networking in your investigations?
CN: I started with social networking before computers were on every investigator’s desk. Does that age me? I moved to the internet in 1996 for some Alta Vista postings of stolen product and have been doing it since.
HTCIA: What do you like to see from your lecture audiences?
CN: I love an interactive group, but for those that have a hard time staying awake, I’ve got a great water gun!
As long as they walk away with at least one new thing, then I’ve done my job. With the internet I am always learning something new…I just want to pass that knowledge to others.
HTCIA: How long have you been an HTCIA member?
CN: I believe it was 1991 or 1992. I do recall that there were very few investigators involved let alone women.
HTCIA: What’s the greatest benefit you derive from the organization?
CN: In two words, lasting relationships! The best example involves a police chief I met many years ago in Dublin, Ireland. In 1998 he asked me to help with a training program for the European Union; they wanted information on how U.S. investigators handled some things, so I and other members brought over and hosted him and his group on the West Coast (he also spent some time in New York City).
They then asked us to provide training in Europe, but the first time we tried to go, England had a foot and mouth epidemic [which affected the food and tourism industry]. The second time was just after 9/11, when no one was flying. We (about 4 or 5 of us) went anyway. And that relationship has continued, with this chief, because HTCIA members came together to help him out.
I’m always overwhelmed by the way HTCIA members always follow through, even if they have never seen each other. In the 18 years since I joined, I’ve maintained some kind of relationship with about 80 percent of my contacts. We know we can always call on each other, even to the extent that our relationships help with getting jobs!
Readers: Cynthia’s presentation will focus on the skills for search engine navigation, usage of terms, and key word searches that will assist in obtaining a more precise outcome. You will learn how to pull pieces of information from private profiles on social networking sites such as Facebook, mySpace, Mocospace, and LinkedIn. And most important, you can do all this from the comfort of your home in your pajamas!
Questions for Cynthia? Please let us know in comments!
Image: cw3283 via Flickr