horwich farrelly

Open source investigations: still a powerful tool?

October, 30, 2018

Have recent developments restricted online investigations, making them a less powerful tool than they once were?

Some may think so, given the dual impact of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and various scandals that have led to many social media sites and open source platforms tightening their security policies and ensuring that access to their sites is restricted.

Close up of apps on mobile phone

Following the Cambridge Analytica incident, Facebook has begun a thorough review and cleansing of its platform to restrict the flow of data and better manage what can be accessed and shared by third parties. Numerous other sites are also taking steps to limit the information that can be obtained by accessing their applications. The motivation behind all of this is to avoid the severe penalties that may flow from a breach of GDPR if data is seen by the regulator to have been mishandled.

Do not fear though, because a vast amount of useful information still remains legitimately available online!

That a mine of information remains available, through piecing together fragments from multiple open sources, is evidenced by websites such as Bellingcat. Since 2014, this site has been investigating events in war zones and suspected terrorist activity but most recently led the exposure of suspected Russian military personnel’s involvement in the Skripal poisoning case. This was achieved by analysing (amongst other information) social media, geospatial information and image metadata.

The key to effective desktop investigations is twofold. Firstly, having the necessary tools and databases to access information and secondly, the appropriate skill sets to interpret it. Horwich Farrelly’s 35 strong intelligence team has those skills and will continue to access covert and open source information to investigate insurance claims both to validate and, where appropriate, challenge them.

For further information please contact Richard Preston or call 0161 413 1742.

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