Fight against threats thanks to OSINT

The following lines are the result of collaborative work, under the leadership of Justin Seitz. There are many of us working together, including Heartbroken and Nanardon.

OSINT is an acronym for Open Source Intelligence. It’s a set of investigative techniques, allowing information to be retrieved from so-called open sources. Used by journalists, by police or in cybersecurity, OSINT can help to find information but it can also be used to protect yourself from malicious people.

Violences against people, especially against women increased and diversified. Harassment, raids, doxxing, revenge porn by video or by pictures, identity theft or school harassment, etc.

How to react? How to prevent them? Our goal is to give you simple resources, without the needs for special knowledge.

It doesn’t substitute support groups, law enforcement, health professionals or lawyers.

We trust you.

You are not responsible.

Facts and situations we will use to illustrate ours kits are criminally and civilly repressed.

You are not alone.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available in this article are for general informational purposes only. Furthermore this article was written mainly in regards to French and European laws. Readers should consult their local laws and contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.

In recent years, there has been an increase in so-called digital raids. At the instigation of one or more people, usually from a public forum or discussion group, on Telegram, Signal, WhatsApp or Discord, individuals insult another person in a pack on a social network. The goal is to publicly harass and humiliate a person.
In most countries, harassment, including digital harassment, is criminally and civilly reprehensible.

This is the other great classic during digital raids: threats of death or rape. Some victims are subjected to both, as well as threats against their families. These threats are usually accompanied by personal information about the victims, so that they take the threats seriously.

However, as many people have learned the hard way, no one is anonymous on the Web, let alone with the right legal tools.


The legal response


As with almost all of the items in the kit, victims are free to file a complaint or not. However, if you have reason to fear that you or your children may be involved, do not hesitate to ask for a lawyer, file a complaint and become a civil party. Clearly, in addition to a possible prison sentence and a fine, you can obtain damages for the prejudice suffered.


Threats via social networks


As in the articles dedicated to digital raids, as well as to do (x) xing, the procedure is the same: you collect and archive, with Single File or Fireshot, you lock your social networks in order not to be bothered anymore and you report to the police.

Do we have to delete our social network accounts? This is an option that some journalists have chosen, tired of receiving continuous threats. Again, it's up to you. But if you delete your accounts, you risk losing access to the material and therefore losing useful evidence in the event of legal proceedings.

Faced with a wave of death threats or rape, you are tempted to cut off the flow and sometimes police or gendarmerie officers advise you to do so. This can be a strategic mistake. Moreover, for professional reasons, you do not always have the possibility to delete your social network accounts. This is particularly the case for journalists, but more and more professions require at least a minimal presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. Simply deleting a social network account can be a solution for teenagers who are still in school, but it can be more complicated for adults who are in the job market.

You have an alternative: you create another social network account. By doing so, you won't lose the evidence, especially if the threats were sent to you by private message, but you won't have to suffer any more. Create a new mailbox, but don't use your first or last name for this. Don't use a disposable mailbox like Yopmail, because you will need to access it several times and for a given amount of time. In addition, most social networks now refuse the creation of accounts from this type of service. Prefer the services of Google or Microsoft, which do very well in this type of case. You can use a false identity generator if you are required to give a first and last name to create the mailbox. Once the mailbox is created, recreate an account, again with a minimum of anonymity, on the social network from which you want to temporarily disappear. Use a funny name, an image you've never used online - a movie character for example - and leave your account locked. Of course, you can tell trusted people on your network that you're temporarily migrating, so they can follow you. Even if the temptation is great, never interact with people who threaten you, either under your real identity or your new hidden identity. Stay far away. If, through the play of algorithms, you're likely to see them in your news feed, hide them, but don't block them. If your hidden account remains locked, they won't be able to see you anyway, and that will keep you safe. Finally, more and more services require a cell phone number. You are advised not to use online services, but rather to buy a phone chip at any grocery store or a burner phone.


Threats sent by email or mail


If you have never given your personal email address in public and you receive death or rape threats, you have been the victim of a do (x) xing. This case should be taken seriously, just as threats at home should be taken seriously. Luckily for you, whether by email or postal mail, people always leave traces, however small. You will need the help of the police. Even if the attackers used a disposable email address such as Yopmail, they most likely left clues, such as spelling mistakes or common phrases. As for paper mail, contrary to the legend, it is not untraceable. Indeed, in the case of French mail, there is a code on the envelopes that allows police to know where the package came from.

Moreover, some attackers like to brag about their exploits, so even if they used disposable email addresses to threaten you, they may have bragged about it on a social network, a public forum or a Discord lounge.

If the threats are coming to your business email or work, don't hesitate to tell your management or your professional insurance company if you're self-employed. Indeed, it is not just you, as an individual, who is being threatened, but you, as a member of a company, or you, as a professional. Your company may feel harmed by these actions and prosecute the attackers as well.

In the different cases of death threats or rape, two profiles emerge:

  • Teenagers or young adults, who thought they would not be discovered and threatened, usually in a pack, out of gambling, bravado or stupidity;

  • Adults, who have a very specific target, are alone and have a stalker profile.

It will therefore be necessary to differentiate where the threats come from: are they the result of a digital raid, which was accompanied by a do (x) xing, or a stalker who has decided to take the next step, or even an ex-spouse?

In all cases, trust your instincts. If you feel you are in danger, notify the police, ask for a lawyer and take the necessary steps to protect yourself.

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