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.
- The Ryerson Index: Death notices and obituaries in Australian newspapers.
- Herald Sun mytributes
- Australian Cemeteries Index: Search for people and cemeteries by name or ID.
- Rookwood Cemetery: The largest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Find a Grave: Not Australia-specific per se, but features data from Oz.
Newspaper article search
- National Library of Australia: Digitised newspapers, maps, gazettes and more.
- Newspapers.com: International site featuring four Aussie papers.
Probably everyone is familiar with The Wayback Machine. The following projects, however, aim to archive the Aussie-side of the internet.
- National Library of Australia: Capturing Australian websites since 1996.
- Our Digital Island: Archived collection of websites from Tasmania.
Who owns a property
This search is a bit tricky because it requires an InfoTrack subscription.
Find a folio/lot number from any address on the NSW Planning Portal.
Log into InfoTrack.
Remove the DP prefix from the lot number.
Enter lot number to the title reference search on InfoTrack.
- Planning Alerts: Planning and development applications search by address. The service scrapes its data from countless of data sources.
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
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.
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:
- White Pages: Powered by Telstra Sensis.
- Yellow Pages
- Reverse Australia: A community-sourced database of phone numbers.
- Search Frog
- True Local
Registered address of a business
This free search only works if the business is a sole trader and it has registered a business name.
Search for the sole trader’s name at the ABN Lookup portal.
Click on the Business Name.
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.
Vehicle Licence Plate Search
On Facebook, people often pose with vehicles, so the licence plate can be a useful lead.
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.
- LicensedTrades: Pulls data from 49 licensing bodies.
- Conveyancer check
- Multiple (NSW): Tradies, liquor licences, fishing registers, surveyors, etc.
- Tax practitioners 1.
- Tax practitioners 2.
- Doctors: Medical board Australia
- Doctors: Allied health
- Licensed Building Professionals (ACT)
- data.gov.au: Thousands of public data sets provided by the Australian Government.
- DFW1N-OSINT: A collection of Aussie-specific OSINT resources.
- Aerial Maps of Sydney (1943): Click on the “Looking for 1943 imagery?” link.
Have some more?
Do you have any useful data sources? Hit me on Twitter with any suggestions.