“Missing” movie review: Exercising OSINT in tracking down a missing person
Technology has become a fundamental tool that simplifies people’s lives in various ways., but how can technology assist in the search for missing individuals?
“Missing,” a movie starring Ava Zaria Lee, Nia Long, and Ken Leung, produced by Sony Pictures, vividly portrays the significance of open-source intelligence (OSINT) methods in tracking down missing persons in the digital era.
OSINT has reached new heights due to significant advances in digital technologies. Search engines, social media platforms, public websites, AI-based tools, and other online resources have made information widely accessible.
From hacking emails to tracking credit card history
After her mother and her lover, Kevin, disappeared without a trace while on vacation in Colombia, Young June (Ava Zaria Lee) tries to find their whereabouts from her home, which is thousands of kilometers away, using various online tools.
Although her mother’s case is being handled by the authorities, June, an 18-year-old teenager, cannot simply sit and wait for the investigation’s results. June strives to gather as much information as possible about her mother’s boyfriend, whom she suspects to be the mastermind behind this incident.
One of the methods she used was to hack into Kevin’s email account using the password recovery method. June collected personal information such as date of birth, mother’s name, and school name from Kevin’s Facebook profile to aid in the password recovery. From the emails, June discovered a wealth of information about her mother’s boyfriend, including conversations with several women who were alleged victims of his deception..
June further investigated these allegations by accessing a publicly available court website. To her surprise, she found Kevin’s name in the site’s database, complete with photos and an indictment for fraud.
In addition to hacking Kevin’s email account, June also managed to hack into her mother’s email account by trying various password patterns. From her mother’s email inbox, she learned that the two of them initially met through a dating website. Not stopping there, June continued her investigation by hacking into her mother’s dating app account.
She uncovered one surprising fact after another in the history of their conversations, including how she obtained information by hacking into her mother’s lover’s credit card transactions, using the same username and password that were also used for the email.
June’s proficiency in leveraging online tools and gathering information led her to her mother’s last traces in Colombia. Overall, the film “Missing” skillfully demonstrates how the OSINT method can support the search for missing persons.
Leveraging digital footprint loopholes
June’s proficiency in using the OSINT method and leveraging technology cannot be separated from the gaps in individuals’ digital footprints. The OSINT method utilizes these digital gaps to obtain fragments of information.
For instance, from social media accounts, one can discover the account owner’s habits, location, community, ideology, and other personal information. However, as the most challenging aspect of OSINT practice, it requires the ability to filter and analyze these fragments of information into meaningful leads.
Moreover, it should be noted that practicing OSINT consumes a significant amount of time and resources. Without the necessary skills, experience, and guidance, individuals would struggle to structure and interpret the information. Special expertise is required to effectively practice OSINT.
It is also important to understand that OSINT cannot stand alone. A combination with conventional methods, such as field observations and interviews with relevant sources, is necessary.
For more complex and extensive cases, individuals or companies require a trusted third party with experience and personnel skilled in practicing OSINT for investigative cases, due diligence, and surveillance.