How Can We Use Messenger Apps in OSINT?
Throughout 2019 one thing that was obvious about the OSINT community is how much work people do in their own time and how willing they are to share their work.
So I decided that over the Christmas Holidays I would look at the many messenger apps that are available and see what information could be leveraged using a Subject’s mobile phone number. I wanted to see what information could be obtained from the apps and the desktop versions. This is very much a whistle stop tour and please take what I have done and build on it.
Below is an illustration of which apps are popular across the Globe.
Much of what you will be able to discover about a Subject’s mobile number will depend not just on the privacy settings of your target app but also your privacy settings.
It is important to learn how each app works and what potential trace you leave your Subject to see.
All the apps seen here offer the investigator / researcher different things and rely somewhat on the information that the target has supplied when creating their accounts.
Strava, Voxer, Skype, have the potential to give location information and other personal information. Apps such as GroupMe, Line, Skype, Strava,Telegram, Wire will provide you with the name that the target has provided when the account was created and not the one that you may have created in your contacts.
Apple Facetime and Google Duo do not seem to offer much in relation to profile photo or personal information. Where they do come in useful however is that you are able to potentially confirm the existence of an Apple or Google account.
Facebook, Facebook Messenger and Instagram appear to make searching contacts difficult in that they will blend you contact in amongst other people so obfuscating your Subject.
You have to sometimes be patient too as not all the apps sync straightaway or are not consistent in how often they sync.
Google Duo — App & Website
• Confirms a person is on Duo.
• It will tell the person that you have added them to your contacts that you are now on Duo too, so this may be an issue depending on what your objective is.
• For those in LE however it does present an opportunity because you have a real world number associated with a Google product.
Facebook Messenger — App / Website
• Profile Picture and details from a Facebook bio.
• What I have noticed is that if you add a contact on an Apple I-Phone it will tell you whether that contact number is on Facetime. So we can easily establish that your subject is potentially using an Apple product.
• For those in LE it presents an opportunity because you have a real world number associated with an Apple product.
GroupMe — App / Website
• Will provide Profile photos the name of the contact on the Server not from your phonebook.
ICQ — App / Website
- Profile Picture, Nickname, Name, BIO & last seen.
- Will show when someone is on-line.
IMO — App / Desktop
• Profile Picture and also the name they have provided to their account as well as last seen.
• It will show the other person if they are on IMO that you have joined and that you have added then to your contacts.
• IMO also shows everyone who is presently on-line (not just your Subject) and also nearby groups but this is something I am still exploring.
• Profile picture. The other person has to have altered the settings to allow them to be added as a contact
• Your subject will see you as a Friend / Friends Recommendation depending on their phone. It will also show when someone is on-line.
• When you click on your contact it will show the name you have given them but underneath it will also show you the name they have given them themselves, as their display name.
Skype — App / Desktop
• Skype is one of my favourites as people who use it tend to give up more information, which I assume is down to the fact this is a professional / business messenger service.
• Skype will display, username, profile picture. It will provide the name as per the server not your contacts, also location information of where they say they are from along with a date of birth.
SOMA — App
• Profile Picture, last scene online, status (Very similar to Whatsapp)
Telegram — App / Desktop
• You can see a user’s profile photo, username and bio along with their last seen.
• If you are using the desktop client of Telegram it will show their previous profile photos too.
• Now I have had mixed results depending on the device I have been using. If your Subject is not on Telegram it will tell you how many of their contacts are.
• One of my favourite bloggiest @aware_online or www.aware-online.com/ has an excellent tutorial on how to geolocate groups on Telegram.
• Will show profile picture and the name on Strava server not in your contacts. Will also show the location they are from if this field has been completed and Bio info.
Viber — App / Desktop
• Viber will enable you to see a person’s profile picture as well as last seen, online. (Very similar to Whatsapp)
• Profile Picture, username, location of where they say they are from.
WeChat — App
• I am still working with this one as I am having issues with the web version.
• With WeChat you have to get another user to scan your QR code to enable you to use the app.
• You can see a person’s profile picture.
• Similar to Telegram you can see nearby users which will show you their profile picture and name.
WhatsApp ¬– App / Desktop
• Profile picture, Last seen, Status & About Me.
• Even if, “Last Seen,” is disabled and their privacy settings are locked down you can still appear to be able to see when your subject is on-line.
Wire — App / Desktop
• Profile username, picture and name from the Wire servers.
Now I have left this one to the last:-
Signal — App / Desktop
From what I can see it is very difficult to leverage anything from Signal apart from confirmation that somebody has the app. For those who like their privacy this may just be the app for you.
Finaly I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year!