The MIDASearch Trawler

MIDASearch’s monthly trawl through the Internet to find trends and news relevant to online investigators.

July 2019


Social Media Searches

Friday 7th June Facebook made some unannounced background changes to the way Facebook could be searched. For years the search parameters were built around their own ‘Facebook Graph Search’ which let users search using either string commands in the relevant URL or any number of third party website tools – one of the most popular was ‘Stalk Scan’.

………but this extremely useful way to search Facebook has now been ‘suspended’ with no news as to if it will be re-instated or if a new way to search is on the way……. or if we are just stuck with the new primitive search bar………

Facebook is a valuable tool for online investigations and these changes have made a huge impact to investigators information / intelligence sources. However a few tools have surfaced to try and make searching a bit easier including ‘Sowdust’:

However these recent Facebook issues are a good opportunity for investigators to put more emphasis on other social networks that still have good search interfaces. The list below has links to third party tools that will enable ‘deep searching’ of some of the other big social network sites:


Fact Checking

Over the past few years electronic online information has become easier to access and distribute than other methods such as print. Information at your finger-tips is a great way to stay informed quickly but has also led to a sharp increase in ‘fake news’.

The Poyneter Institute host an annual Global Fact Checking Network where deligates discuss ideas and tactics to tackle issues such as fake news. This years network was held in Cape Town and featured 57 speakers. The Poynter Institute have issued the advice that was discussed at the forum which will help Investigators and business across the globe to improve their fact checking skills and re-sources. The main points can be found here: 9 fact-checking lessons from Global Fact 6.


MeWe a rival to Facebook


The Los Angeles Business Journal are reporting that the Social Network site ‘MeWe’ parent company have received another significant financial investment.

MeWe is a California based social network site founded in 2012 as a rival to Facebook. MeWe have so far raised around $15 million in total since its creation. MeWe is advertised as a private, no adverts, no spyware social media site. MeWe expect to have over 30 million active users by the end of 2019 with over half of this number coming from users outside of the U.S.

Using Machine Learning to Spot Photo Shopped Images


In the June issue of The MidaSearch Trawler there was a piece regarding fake face generators. Image manipulation as well as ‘Deep Fake Videos’ have the potential of fabricating information.

Adobe have over the years been innovators in photo-shopping software, but have now published a paper on how they are using machine learning to spot photo-shopped images. A solution is yet to be made available to the public from Adobe, however the video below gives a good overview of their work in tackling this issue. Whether it will be Adobe or another company who eventually release a solution to businesses and investigators to tackle the issue it is worth keeping an eye on any future developments.

June 2019


AI technology face generators

The ‘people’ below all have one thing in common – they do not exist. They were all created using AI technology and are available from free open source websites.

How can I check that a face is real?

Currently the faces on the free random generator sites all have a small defect that can be spotted by studying the image. Some are easy to spot whilst others are harder to spot as the defect is not always in the same place.

Spotting the defect….

However with free online photo-shop tools it is easy to remove the defect and even add a whole new back ground, but even with no changes it still has Google fooled…

Have a go at this quiz and see how many fake faces you can spot……

Invoice Fraud Scams


The Nat West Business Hub has an interesting article explaining how invoice scammer gangs are posing as legitimate payees of supply firms and tricking the targeted companies in to transferring money to them. According to figures published by UK Finance in their report Fraud the Facts these scams cost firms over £90million in 2018.

You can read the Nat West article here


Manage your online identity


Image by Denis Bogdan from Pixabay

It is important to keep on top of your social media accounts and to regularly check that your email address(es) have not been compromised. Three easy steps to help are:

  • Check to see if your email address has been compromised through known security breaches. A simple easy way to check is by using a free reputable webite such as ‘Have I been pwned?’ The site will check any inputted email address and give instant results along with relevant tips on how you can reduce the risk of being a victim of hacks and scams.
  • Delete old social media and other accounts that you no longer use. – However it is not always as easy as it possibly should be to have companies delete your personal details from their websites. ‘Just delete me!’ has useful information and direct links to a large number of websites account deactivation pages.
  • Update your privacy settings – check privacy settings on social media and other websites you use still meet your personal requirements. If you are unsure how to update privacy settings think about giving a site such as Plus Privacy a try. It is a ‘one stop’ website tool that enables you to easily change privacy settings of several social media sites at once.


People Hacking

Stephanie “Snow” Carruthers is a People Hacker for X-Force Red, an autonomous team of veteran hackers within IBM in this article she reveals some of her tricks to gaining vital business information from company employees.


May 2019 

FBI take down Deep Dot Web

the go to site for the latest news on the Dark Web, Deep Dot Web, has been seized by the FBI. Due to the site being available via the surface web (as well as the dark web) it was an easy go to for investigators to understand trends and markets within the hidden web.

The Times Israel are reporting that several people have been arrested internationally on suspicion of supporting the purchase of drugs and weapons.

Many on investigators were asking (via Twitter) for links to any sites similar to Deep Dot Web. Dark Net News appeared on several replies as being a good alternative, however at time of writing (May 10th) the site is displaying a 404 page not found error.

Public are warned of commonly used methods by travel fraudsters

Action Fraud (The National Fraud and Cyber Crime site) have joined with ABTA (The Travel Association) and Get safe online to raise awareness of Travel / Holiday fraud.

Action Fraud has reported that they have had over 5,000 people report fraud to them in 2018. Over half of holiday frauds reported to Action Fraud were related to the sale of airline tickets. Around a quarter of the reported fraud was related to accommodation.

In all Action Fraud calculate that fraudsters stole more than £7 million through scams targeting the public. This is up from 2017 when it calculated that fraudsters had stolen in the region of £6.7 million through travel fraud scams.

For more information click on the following link to the Action Fraud press release dated 09th May 2019:

Banking Fraud Prevention System Delayed Until March 2020

The six biggest UK banks, who are involved in around 90% of UK based bank transfers, now have until 31st March 2020 to implement The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) Confirmation of PAYEE (CoP) which is designed to protect customers from Authorised Push Payment Scams and payments being made to the wrong account accidently.

For more information click on the following link to the PSR press release dated 09th May 2019: