Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Twitter is officially now Creepy

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Okay, this is a play on words, but it really is getting creepy. Yiannis Kakavas, social media fanatic and software writer, has published a new free tool to scare the pants off of any sane Twitterphile. But if you are updating your Twitter page that much, you probably won’t really care.

Kakavas’s new tool, “Creepy,” is a social networking search tool — or in his words, a “geolocation information aggregator.” But unlike just any search, Creepy searches for where you have posted from, then figures out the posts’ longitude and latitude and makes a pretty map of where you have posted from each time. Can you say “stalker nirvana”?

Now this requires that you have turned on Twitter’s own geolocation service, or used some device (your smartphone) or web service (Foursquare, Gowalla, etc.) that collects your lat/long when you are posting. So, Kakavas’ tool is not collecting anything you haven’t already put online yourself. It just makes it easy for the investigator to get to.

Well, as I have posted before, where there is a great tool for stalkers there is a great tool for investigators. So let’s take a look at this new investigative tool.

CREEPY

Again, this is a simple to use tool. Go to the download page and download the Windows Executable or the Ubuntu version and install on your operating system. The Windows installer is quick and easy and it will have you investigating in no time.

Start Creepy and in the settings authorize it to use your Twitter account. (You do need a Twitter account, but many investigators set up accounts purely for investigative purposes.) Now you can search Twitter users or Flickr users, along with photos from many other online applications. I searched both and easily found the users I was looking for.

Then click on the big “Geolocate Target” button. Under the “Map View” tab, the found lat/long coordinates will be displayed, along with their location on a mapping tool of your choice (there are several different mapping tools, including Google, to choose from).

It may take a few minutes to complete the search, but the results can be very revealing. Just as call detail records from cell phones can help investigators map out a suspect’s or victim’s movements over a period of weeks – including their normal patterns, and departures from normal – Creepy’s maps can show patterns of behavior with regard to social networks. The longer you track these patterns, the better picture you will have of your target.

It’s that simple… or it’s that Creepy.

Do you use Creepy? What have your experiences been?

Social Media, Travel, Speeches and FourSquare

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

As much as I try to avoid business travel anymore, the more I seem to do.  Although travel is not bad it can get overwhelming at times and seems to just put me further behind. I did recently in my travels have the opportunity to speak, on an as of late favorite topic, and that is the use of Social Media by law enforcement. Specifically I was speaking on the lack of policy by agencies starting to use Social Media, not only as a community policing tool, but as an investigative tool.

Recently I was asked to present at the first annual SMILE conference or Social Media in Law Enforcement conference in Washington DC. This was a great gathering of various law enforcement professionals interested in Social media and its implementation within law enforcement. My specific piece was on the policy decision behind using social media as a law enforcement tool.  I spoke about the need to have policy to protect the law enforcement officer as much as the agency. I was able to speak with some great talent in the field that are adapting social media for investigative and communicative reasons.

I also had the opportunity to speak at the Massachusetts Attorney Generals Cyber crime Initiative quarterly meeting. The Mass AG sponsors a meeting quarterly on various cybercrime topics. She brings in investigators from all over the state to discuss cybercrime. I was lucky enough to speak on the investigation of social media, and of course hit the topic of policy for law enforcement.  The crowd of over 200 Massachusetts law enforcement investigators was eager to understand more about investigating social media especially as it applied to Cyber bullying cases.

During the two weeks I was gone, connecting to so many investigators in person, I wanted to be sure not to lose touch with my online contacts — not just customers and prospects who email me, but also Twitter and Facebook followers. So, as a smartphone user, I downloaded a new app and signed up for a new program called “Foursquare”. The use of FourSquare allowed me to stay connected on the road from my phone.  I could and did update my Facebook page and my twitter account from my phone with a few clicks of the keyboard.

I found this to be a simple and easy use of the media and received numerous comments back regarding my updates. Many were interested in my travels and found the topics I was speaking on of interest.

Why am I mentioning this? When I talk to groups like these, I want to be sure they understand the value of social networking in their professional lives — not just from an investigative standpoint, but also from the standpoint of being able to network and share ideas with one another. Our increasingly interconnected world makes this an absolute necessity.

Are you on Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn? Please feel free to connect with me.

Monitoring Twitter? Try Searchtastic

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Twitter is not the pointless what-I’m-having-for-breakfast exercise in narcissism that many people think it is. The Washington Post recently reported that gangs are now using it and rival Facebook to discuss their activities–thereby inadvertently incriminating themselves.

So, it’s a good idea for gang investigators, probation/parole officers, and other law enforcement officers to monitor Twitter to see what’s going on. Best way to do that? Lauri Stevens over at ConnectedCOPS offers Searchtastic:

Try searching Twitter with its own advanced search “feature” and you might come up a bit disappointed. Put in a term or hashtag and it will take you go back only a week and a half or so in time.

With Searchtastic:

1. Search usernames or hashtags
2. You can pull up tweets from weeks and months back.
3. You can search on a particular user and the people he or she follows.
4. Then, click on a word in the search results and it modifies the search by the word. Once a word is in the search results, if you want to take it back out, click on it again.
5. And the clincher: When your search results look like something that might be interesting, export the results to Excel with the click of one button.

It seems like in ten or fifteen minutes, you could design a search, relevant to any investigation you might be working, that’s full of interesting terms and Twitter usernames. Export those results to Excel and cross reference them through your other database engines and maybe connect a few more dots. Useful?

I tried Searchtastic on the hashtag (a way to organize tweet topics) #webcase, which I used in November to live-tweet training from Charlotte, NC. The first run found tweets going back to October, but not my class tweets.

During my second run, without the # symbol, I found about six pages of tweets. Some came from Todd (who tweets as @Webcase); others from people who had “retweeted,” or recommended, WebCase or something we’d said.

As Lauri says, Searchtastic is in beta, so it may not catch 100% of what you are trying to find. As with so much when it comes to online investigations, best is to run the search sooner rather than later. However, Searchtastic does find much more than Twitter Search; it does organize tweets nicely by username; and it does allow for export to Excel.

Find out more on Searchtastic’s About page.

Christa M. Miller is Vere Software’s marketing/public relations consultant. She specializes in law enforcement and public safety and can be reached at christa at christammiller dot com.

Cyber Vigilantism or Cyber Neighborhood Watch?

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Governments across the globe have been trying to deal with Cybercrime and its impact on our communities. Some have done a better job than others in responding to those crimes. The rise in Internet users over the past decade and our dependence on it as a medium for communication has increased the number of concerned citizen users. The Internet is no longer just a tool to do our shopping from our home, or a tool to research a school paper. Through social networking the Internet is truly becoming a community. With those communities come problems, but also concerned citizens, ready to rise up and act in the best interests of their community.

Law enforcement is still grappling with its response to enforcing the law on the Internet. They continue to meet the challenges with mixed results. Because of this enforcement vacuum there recently has been a rise in what can only be described as citizen activists. The rise in social networking has brought together many diverse people. The commonality among them is their willingness to protect their piece of the Internet. As evidence of this are several examples of concerned netizens standing up and taking actions to protect their Internet.

Twitter, the recent social networking phenomenon, gave rise to an incident recently”, as commented on by socialmedia.biz, where a “Twitterer” in Virginia found a threat posted on a Wikipedia page against a school in St. Louis. Enlisting others from the Twitter ranks they tracked down information about the student posting the threat and made plans via Twitter about what to do with the information. The local police department was contacted and the threat relayed. However, the police complaint taker was less than cooperative according to reports and stated he “did not have access to the Web”. Another neighboring agency was contacted and appropriate actions were taken to resolve the issue.

And as far away as China, the Internet is changing the way the people feel about, and communicate. Locating people online has become almost a sport. When unpleasant comments were posted online after the earthquake deaths in the Sichuan province, numerous Netizens researched and attacked the posters online. Even Chinese government officials are not immune from response. With millions of people online, the Chinese government is finding it increasingly difficult to control its citizen’s response to overzealous government officials. Wearing a $25,000 watch in the picture you post on the Internet is not a probably a good idea when your government salary is not enough to cover its cost. The official was later dismissed partly I am sure to the Netizens complaints. In China this growing trend of Cyber-vigilantism is called “renrou sousuo”, or “human-flesh searches”. It is done spontaneously by Netizens to ferret out perceived wrong doers.

To the extreme in this country we have the Texas Border Watch program. This is a novel concept of recruiting Cyber border watchers. Individuals can watch streaming video over the Internet from cameras mounted at various locations on the southern U.S. Border and report suspicious activity. According to a report by NPR, “43,000 pairs of eyes are watching the Texas-Mexico border”. Netizens observations of the border have lead to arrests of wrongdoers.

Cyber Vigilantism is not necessarily new. A few years ago a Korean girl was publically humiliated online after not picking up after her dog on a train. In the late 1990’s Cyber-vigilantism was thought to be a reasonable response to the emerging online crime problem because of law enforcements inability to respond to the problem. Even extremists groups have been tracked by vigilantes on the web. It’s a popular enough concept that Wikipedia has a page defining it.

The dark side of this argument has been groups such as Perverted Justice whose regular work was chasing those who would prey on our children on the Internet. Their member’s antics have been regularly discredited as well as praised for their aggressive and persistent actions which arguably may not be within the law. In the UK recently a law was passed to try and curtail the extreme amount of pornography found on the Internet. The “Extreme Porn” law has given rise to a group, the Enforcers of the Extreme Porn Law, who are dissatisfied with UK law enforcements position about not actively policing extreme porn.

How much have law enforcements response to Internet crime changed in the past decade? Certainly law enforcement has gotten better at dealing with the technology and on many levels their response is better. Many law enforcement agencies are even using social networking sites to communicate with its citizens. But there is no real drive to recruit netizens to become the eyes and ears of law enforcement online. In a recent blog entry by Bill Schrier in his blog “Note from a City CIO” he wrote an article “Twitter, Facebook not ready for Government 2.0”. Ready or not Government will have to address social networking and the netizens on it, more likely sooner than anticipated at its growth rate.

With the isolated examples of netizens reaction to criminal’s online; law enforcement may be missing an opportunity to recruit a neighborhood “Net-Watch” type of faithful following. Law enforcement could guide netizens and encourage their support. With the Internets ability to mobilize vast numbers in response to a crime on the Internet an opportunity exists to establish a major blow to criminals everywhere. People now spend their waking hours, and some with web cameras, their sleeping ones too, online. It may be time for law enforcement to expand its online ranks with properly trained and recruited cyber watchers. It might also be a way of corralling the behavior of some of the Cyber vigilantes that have gone a little far in their attempts to hang online wrongdoers. Look out online criminals, your next door neighbor may soon be watching you.