I wanted to write this since I competed in the National Missing Persons Hackathon in Sydney last October. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, the competition was the first-ever nationwide Missing Persons CTF. As the police receive more than 38,000 missing persons report each year and there are circa 2,600 long term missing persons in Australia, the noble intention was helping the authorities find missing persons by providing as many leads as possible.

Although there are plenty of write-ups about the tools used and practices followed on these OSINT competitions, most of them are revolving around the United States.

In the following article, I summarised the various Australian public data sources I found useful in the Missing Persons competition. The list of the data sources below is a non-comprehensive list with a heavy bias (e.g. NSW-focussed).

Finding social media profiles of the missing person and his or her relatives is a good starting point.

  • aussiefinder: Searches on five different social media platforms narrowed down to Australian results.
  • Ancestry (AU): Similar to the US counterpart, this website aggregates various data sources (e.g. electoral roll, immigration and naturalisation records). A free trial is available.
  • Person Lookup: Data sourced from ‘public records’, not sure from where though.
  • Australian Electoral Commission: Check someone’s electoral enrolment.

The following websites can help identify family members of the missing person.

Newspaper article search

How The Beatles toured Australia in 1964.
How The Beatles toured Australia in 1964.

Website archive

Probably everyone is familiar with The Wayback Machine. The following projects, however, aim to archive the Aussie-side of the internet.

The upcoming Sydney Olympics back in 1998.
The upcoming Sydney Olympics back in 1998.

Properties

Who owns a property

This search is a bit tricky because it requires an InfoTrack subscription.

  1. Find a folio/lot number from any address on the NSW Planning Portal.

  2. Log into InfoTrack.

  3. Remove the DP prefix from the lot number.

  4. Enter lot number to the title reference search on InfoTrack.

Planning applications

Property history

In certain cases, I found it incredibly useful to see the living circumstances of the subject before the disappearance.

OnTheHouse.com.au is a website archiving the advertisements on the larger property websites.

This website can be useful to retrieve some of the following information:

  • Photos of the property taken inside at the time when it was on the market
  • Name of the property agent and agency
  • Rental and sale prices
  • Year the property was built
  • Land size
Taking a look from David Bowie's former residence in Elizabeth Bay NSW.
Taking a look from David Bowie's former residence in Elizabeth Bay NSW.

A new alternative to peek into the interior of properties is Matterport, a service offering 360 virtual tours of properties for sale. It turns out the virtual tours are left online even after the property is sold. A simple Google dork currently reveals 2,740 Australian properties listed on the Matterport portal at the time of writing.

A simple Matterport virtual tour of an office may reveal too much information of this business.
A simple Matterport virtual tour of an office may reveal too much information of this business.

Crime Map

These maps were useful to assess the level of crime where the missing person used to live or had gone missing.

Plain and simple business search engines:

Registered address of a business

This free search only works if the business is a sole trader and it has registered a business name.

  1. Search for the sole trader’s name at the ABN Lookup portal.

  2. Click on the Business Name.

  3. The link should take to the ASIC portal. The Address for service of documents field should feature the address.

Traditional company details are available for a substantial fee from the ASIC Connect portal.

On Facebook, people often pose with vehicles, so the licence plate can be a useful lead.

The lucky owner of BOGAN drives a white Mitsubishi Express.
The lucky owner of BOGAN drives a white Mitsubishi Express.

Licensed Professions

These websites can be useful to verify if someone has the credentials claim to have. For example, I found in one case that even though the missing person’s dad’s family business had gone through a bankrupcy, the family house was renovated shortly afterwards with no expense spared.

Other

Have some more?

Do you have any useful data sources? Hit me on Twitter with any suggestions.