~$ I participated in the conINT CTF!

Posted on Oct. 19th, 2020.

Tags:ConferenceCTFOSINT


On the weekend of the 17th of October 2020, I had registered to view the talks given at conINT 2020.

I actually was able to catch a few talks live, notably:

  • The opening keynote, by Benjamin Strick
    This talk really has some mind blowing OSINT tricks and is a really good introduction to it's uses;
  • "A Beginners Guide to Shodan", by Alan O'Reilly
    A pretty good overview of the uses of Shodan, which I'm still majorly unfamiliar with;
  • "Turning Information into Intelligence", by Chris Poulter
    An in-depth differentiation between information & intelligence, the differences and how to go from the former to the latter;
  • "Mind Hacks - Psychological profiling, and mental health in OSINT investigations", by Nicole Beckwith
    A pretty awesome talk on the psychological impact of working with OSINT and how to compartmentalize in a healthy way;
  • "Offensive OSINT - A guide on how effectively use OSINT during Penetration Testing and Red teaming engagements", by Charles Shirer
    Tools, many tools, the best tools;
  • "Using Intelligence to Defend Against Ransomware", by Will Thomas
    An awesome talk about monitoring the ransomware threat landscape;
  • "OSINT: Getting Started", by Siobhan Kelleher
    An awesome introduction to the ingress points in using OSINT, and what mistakes not to make, and how to effectively pivot;

I caught up with the rest later, on conINT's YouTube channel.


Once that was done, I thought my weekend was over. Only a few moments later did I understand that the nagging sensation in my gut was my desire to participate in the Tracelabs Global Search CTF, the day after.

I'd never participated in an OSINT CTF, so -- after a few organizational misshaps -- I teamed up with Dan Conn (whom I'd met on Infosec Happy Hour) and Kathryn.

We started out a bit haphazardly, unsure of how to progress -- although we had a few helpful tips and tricks from Charles Wroth.


For obvious reasons, I can't get into the missing people's details. What I can get into though, is how we got -- or failed to get -- some of it.

  • My main tool was Google. By using a process known as "Google dorking", I could get some pretty pertinent information about an MP (aka. Missing Person), including a name change in public records, which could very well still be used as an alias.
  • To map the missing people's family, the tool of choice was Facebook. One MP's aunt had actually listed their entire family in the 'About' section of her profile.
    One of the areas where I was lacking was finding an MP's account using advanced search, as their last location mixed with their first name could've gotten us the account.
  • Additionally, the link between Facebook and Instagram could've been coupled with some Yandex reverse image search to find another MP's main Facebook account.
  • We managed to find a current address (I think) for one of the MP's in the white pages, and comparing it with real estate sites for that area to see when it was sold.
  • For LinkedIn, I found a nifty little trick to not alert a user their profile had been visited (later).
  • In terms of text in a foreign language, using Google Translate's language detection feature was used to confirm that the person writing a post at least knew of the same language as the MP, raising the likelyhood they were one and the same.

All of this generated some pretty good leads, and scored us a pretty nice sum of points, landing us at the 37th place on 125 participating groups, which -- in my modest opinion, is pretty awesome !

Although we didn't win -- realistically not really feasible, it was a really fun and challenging experience !
I got better at finding valuable information, at searching for specific data and using advanced search tools.

One of the tricks I used was even nominated for an MVO (Most Valuable OSINT) award -- which we didn't win, but was nice nevertheless. I'll get to said trick slightly later.


In the future I would like to at least take a gander at dehashed and searching for user credentials in dumps, a Global Search CTF being one of the only legitimate reasons to learn more about it.


For our involvement, we received a Badgr virtual badge (below) !

The Badgr TraceLabs CTF badge.

The OSINT trick I mentioned earlier

This trick is used to get a copy of the public LinkedIn profile without pinging it -- without having a premium / recruiter account, obviously -- thus respecting the no-touch rule set up by the CTF.

Step 1: Copy the LinkedIn profile link.

Step 2: Open Google's Mobile Friendly site tester.

Step 3: Paste in the LinkedIn profile link and solve the CAPTCHA.

Step 4: Once the redirect is over, go to the HTML tab to the right of the page and copy the HTML code.

Step 5: Create a .html file on your machine, open it in your favorite editor (or Notepad, who cares), and paste the HTML code in.

Step 6: Open the .html file in your browser.

Step 7: ?

Step 8: Profit.