We often use web-based email search to find information about an email address, and in some cases, to find out information about who that email address communicates with. For those of us performing open source intelligence (OSINT) research for our various groups and personal vetting, email search is pretty important. Two of the most known web-based email search services are Reverse Genie and Email Sherlock.
While the services do provide information you need about an email address, it also notifies the owner of the email address that someone in your geographical area performed that search, and gives them a copy of the information it provided to you. This compromises your research and possibly your identity, especially if the target is aware that they’re on your radar in the first place.
Obviously, having your target notified that you’ve done a search on their email address defeats many purposes.
(For a general explanation of OSINT and some of the tools available, you can start here with this paper. There are MANY more resources on the web, including here at TOWR.)
You might be asking “Well, what am I supposed to use then?” There are a few things you can try; we aren’t saying stop performing email searches. Some of the issues could possibly be averted by using a VPN for all OSINT research—and not using that same VPN server again or for anything else (there are a host of VPN servers out there, even if you stick with only one provider). Using the Tor Browser is also a common-sense given. In addition, I’d recommend doing your OSINT research from a public wifi not in your immediate area. We all love doing our work while in comfy pants and our own recliner, but doing things right is far more important than doing them conveniently.
Whatever you do, don’t stop vetting your people—and by vetting I don’t mean “checking their Facebook profile to see what they post about and if you have mutual friends.” Keep in mind that there are currently known federal agents and informants that have mutual friends with you…and might even be friends with you themselves….collecting everything you post. Remember: it only takes one mistake to compromise your entire group.
If you’d be interested in a one-day class on how to vet your people and tighten your contact networks, contact us at TOWR@whiterose.us.