As the volume of trust and safety issues increases, analysts need the right tools to efficiently conduct successful investigations.

Online services and communities demand constant attention to ensure usage and content is appropriate and free of abuse and criminal activity. Trust and safety teams are challenged with having to monitor, prioritize and investigate an ever-increasing volume of automated and user-initiated alerts. Keeping pace to resolve issues quickly relies on having the right investigative tools to work efficiently and make better evidence-based decisions.

Automated systems are helpful, but…

Many companies rely on AI-driven automation for content moderation and fraud detection. Indeed, AI has become a vital component in managing trust and safety, but many issues still need human intervention. Most systems are not capable of catching all the relevant context to provide a complete picture of an issue or user — so investigators need to step in to gain deeper insight.

For example, automation might incorrectly flag issues with legitimate users, and blocking them arbitrarily could damage good faith and brand integrity. On the flipside, the system could miss coordinated efforts that are systematically targeting a platform or pursuing illegal activity. Look at the Russian disinformation on social media during elections in recent years: Each issue viewed in isolation might have been a divergent opinion, but collectively, the content could have represented a global geopolitical information war.

Protecting social media communities and online services often requires trust and safety analysts to venture off-platform and scratch below the surface to collect evidence. Let’s take a look at some best practice tools for getting the job done.

Tools to optimize OSINT

With countless information sources across the surface, deep and dark web, investigators need to zero in on the most useful pieces relevant for their casework. A great starting point is the OSINT Framework, which indexes numerous URLs, suggests helpful services and recommends where to look next when conducting an investigation.

To speed up research and data collection, here are some other valuable OSINT (i.e., open source intelligence gathering) tools:

  • Domain/IP Whois: Learn about the registrar and ownership of a website, including addresses, names and phone numbers used to register the domain, the date of registration and hosting details. Although ownership details are often privacy-protected with proxy information from the web host, analysts can use it as a stepping stone in their research.
  • TinEye Reverse Image Search: Helpful for content moderation and fraud detection, this web crawling database enables analysts to upload an image or use an image URL to search and find anywhere that image appears online.
  • Social-Searcher Social Media Search Engine: For real-time social monitoring of mentions about a company, brand, product or service, analysts can search for users, keywords and trends across 10 social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, Reddit, Flickr, Dailymotion and Vimeo). The dashboard also provides deep analytics data, and enables users to save searches and set up email alerts.
  • Social Bearing Twitter Search and Analytics: Investigators can gain insights about tweets or users based on engagement, influence, location, sentiment and more. This tool can analyze Twitter mentions, find top tweets, hashtags, trends or conversations; show most popular tweets containing specific images or links; find geolocated tweets; and analyze any user’s timeline.

Tools to blend in with the crowd

Best practice tradecraft is more than just finding great resources for collecting evidence. Investigations can be risky business. If trust and safety analysts need to research and engage in environments like hate group forums or illegal marketplaces, it’s critical to ensure their work can never be traced back to the analyst or their organization.

Anonymity is key — and many investigators are more exposed than they realize. Even with private browsing and VPNs, websites and browsers use numerous hidden ways to track a user’s digital fingerprint. To shield investigations from risk, analysts need more secure — and flexible — ways to control how their online presence appears. That’s where a managed attribution service makes a powerful difference.

Managed attribution minimizes the risk of being tracked, identified and targeted with retaliation. Investigators can customize their online identity to appear as if they’re using any chosen device and browser, accessing from a specific local region and time zone with the appropriate language and keyboard settings.
 
This approach not only ensures more secure tradecraft, it increases efficiency and effectiveness of research. With a locally customized identity, analysts can eliminate geoblocking and misinformation often encountered when accessing foreign sites. To increase the likelihood of appearing like a local, check out StatCounter, which provides data on the most popular browser, OS and device type used in a given region or country.

Driving better outcomes with managed attribution

Effective OSINT tools enable better research, and they also help improve outcomes by alleviating stress on analysts. Extensive investigations into harmful or explicit content and interactions can be draining. Having more efficient workflows can reduce both strain and the likelihood of mistakes. Ultimately, the ability to conduct better investigations leads to better intelligence, which leads to better decisions.

To learn more about the power of managed attribution for trust and safety casework, download our white paper. 

See for yourself how analysts can conduct hyper-secure, anonymous investigations — request a Silo for Research demo.

About the Author

A8 Team
A8 Team
Contribution Team U.S.A.

Authentic8 Team is a group of cybersecurity enthusiasts, investigation sleuths, top-notch engineers, news junkies, policy wonks and all-around fervent writers hell-bent on bringing you the best darn blog in the industry. 

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