How Security Professionals Dig up Dirt about You Online

I’m often asked during our corporate penetration tests exactly how we located personal information about an executive at their company.  Below is a rough guide on how to track just about anybody online.

We usually start with a name or an alias.  For purposes of this demonstration, let’s start with a company name and work from there.  You can easily switch the steps around to start with a person’s name if you already have one.  Our goal is going to be learning about NBG Networks LLC.  A great place to start for businesses is hoovers.com.  Hoovers will give you a basic understanding of a company, including address, sales revenue, and industry.  Pro-tip: Hoovers is often wrong about companies that are not public because private companies, like NBG Networks, aren’t required to publicly share sales revenue and owner information.  However, it’s still a good starting point.  After looking at Hoovers, you’ll see that NBG Networks is based in Middletown, DE.  My next stop is usually the companies own website as they frequently will display prominent members of their company.  Lastly, I always check LinkedIn because most professionals can be found there.


NBG Networks Linkedin
With any online investigation, every piece of information can be crucial, so take note of things like professional certifications and associations on LinkedIn.  On my profile, I have CISSP, InfraGard, and ISSA as well as the college I attended and previous companies I worked for.  Also pay special attention to the rough location of the individual.

Turning a Name into so Much More

Now that we know “Nick Gibson” is the CEO of NBG Networks LLC, we can find out more about him.  My favorite name research tool is Spokeo.com, which requires a modest subscription price, but is well worth it!  Searching on Spokeo turns up many “Nick Gibsons” in many locations, but thanks to Hoovers, we already know that NBG Networks is based in Middletown, DE, so that seems like a good place to start.

Spokeo Middletown, DE Nick

You can see Spokeo has found “Nicholas B Gibson” instead of “Nick Gibson,” so we now know NBG Networks’ CEO is likely legally named “Nicholas B Gibson.”  My exact address is also available through Spokeo – which is a bit creepy!

The next stop on our stalking adventure is Facebook, because 1.2 billion profiles means our mark is likely a member.  The tough thing with Facebook is that there are so many people without the details we found above it can be very hard to find the correct “Nick Gibson.”  Facebook makes it impossible for users to hide their profiles from their search tool, which means unless you have been blocked by the user explicitly, you’ll likely find them.  Here’s a Nick Gibson in Middletown, DE – that seems like a safe bet.

facebook search nick gibson

 

Below you’ll see some public information that is available on this profile which further confirms this is the correct “Nick Gibson.”

Nick Gibson Facebook Page

Data Protection Magnifier

 How to Protect Yourself

  • Follow the steps above yourself.  If you don’t have a company, start with Spokeo or LinkedIn.
  • If your information is on Spokeo and you would like it removed, copy the entire URL from your web browser that you would like removed and visit Spokeo’s Opt-Out Page. Pro-tip: Spokeo (and most companies like them) simply aggregate information they find publicly online.  So your listing is likely somewhere else already, such as the white pages.
  • Information you choose to share with LinkedIn and Facebook should be considered public at all times, no matter what “security measures” you’ve selected in either service.  These companies aren’t designed to be secure and they’re mainly concerned with their marketing clients, not the users.  The users on Facebook and LinkedIn are the products these companies sell to advertisers.
  • Please be careful about what you share online.  A good rule of thumb to follow is: if you would be embarrassed or hurt to see what you’re about to share on the front page of The New York Times, do NOT share it online!

Tools Icon Tools for Locating Human Assets

  • NameChk: A tool that will take any screen name you have and check it against hundreds of services for the same name.  This is a great tool if you don’t have a person’s name, like “Nick Gibson,” but you have a screen name, like “NBGnetworks.”
  • GlassDoor: A website that can be handy to check if you’re looking for information on a business from the employee’s view.  Employees go on GlassDoor and talk about their current and previous employers in a candid way. This is a good way to find a specific name of an employee at a company.
  • Jigsaw: A directory of every major company on earth with phone numbers, addresses, names and titles.
  • Tweepz: A tool to find Twitter users.
  • IceRocket: Find social mentions from Twitter, blogs, and Facebook.  This can be very useful to see who your mark is talking to.
  • Network Solutions Whois: A tool for looking up who owns a website.  Pro-tip: Many websites use privatizing services to hide their true owners.
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Nick Gibson

Nick Gibson is a United States computer security expert and founder of NBG Networks LLC. He has worked in security regulated industries like healthcare and finance for over a decade.
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