Members Blog

Joe Gray’s OSINT: Missing Persons Training

today 09/15/2020 - Tim Leonard

Following the Digital Breadcrumbs

By Tim Leonard DETSEC Contributor

I'm on a Russian website doing a reverse image search. I'm hoping to find the location of an odd-looking building in a Facebook picture. No luck. The team notices a fuzzy sign hanging in the window. It is blurry, but a quick image enhancement confirms it's a sign used by a gas station chain only in Northern California. I'm working with a team of people I met 6 hours prior. I don't know their real names, only their Discord handles. We have been using our newly minted OSINT skills to track down a young man who's been missing for several weeks. This is not a drill; it is a real-life scenario. Our instructor, Joe Gray, tells us he will turn over any promising leads to the authorities. This is OSINT (Open Source Intelligence), and this is the OSINTION: Intro to Missing People training.

I decided to take the OSINTION on a Saturday. The weekend class is six hours long. Weekday classes are split into two three-hour evening segments. I had a free Saturday and was happy we started at noon CST because I'm not a morning person. Signing up for the class was $130 US. Joe graciously provides coupon codes often, so check with him before enrolling. I believe the price is a bargain for most budgets for this type of hands-on training. There are some technical requirements for the course if you want to take full advantage of all the tools Joe shares. A little knowledge of the Linux command line and setting up a virtual machine (Kali or Ubuntu) is useful in the class, but I wouldn't say it is essential. Many of the tools used in OSINT operations are free websites. I believe a person with minimal technical ability would still walk away from this class with powerful new knowledge.

Joe's class begins with an hour-long Intro to OSINT. He explains the difference between raw information and intelligence, data gathering processes, and ethics. The course aims to prepare attendees to compete in OSINT capture the flag competitions. As the 2017 DerbyCon OSINT CTF winner, Joe knows his stuff. Hours three and four are an introduction to the tools and techniques. It is fascinating how OSINT practitioners can follow the digital breadcrumbs solving real-life cases, such as sex trafficking, missing persons, and other crimes. A great example of OSINT in action is at A word of caution, the Bell?ngCat site may not be suitable for work.

The final two hours are really where the rubber meets the road. Joe picks a real-life missing person, and class attendees work together to track down any open-source evidence and solve the case. I promised Joe Gray I would not write spoilers in my course review. I will leave you only with this. Be careful what you share, who you share it with, and privacy settings on your phone and devices. Take this class if you don't believe me, you will not regret it.


You can learn more about Joe Gray on Twitter @C_3PJOE and