Operating daily within the field of OSINT activities, we often encounter the difficulty of making possible customers understand what the potential and usefulness of this type of activity might be. Another problem is making the customer understand what the difficulties and limitations of this type of activity could be, where years of television series have accustomed us to seeing the geek operatives of CSI, NCIS, etc… retrieving any information about a person with a just click.
We could face two differente situations:
- the target is too active on the web: analists should be submerged by data and find really interesting data could be very hard.
- the target is savvy enough about privacy stuffs to not leave data behind.
We could indeed find ourselves in two extreme situations:
- in the first, the target is too active in the web, analysts will therefore find themselves overwhelmed by an excess of information in which it is almost impossible to identify specific facts of real utility;
- in the second, the target is a subject that is particularly attentive to their privacy and analysts will find themselves in the situation of not being able to identify any type of information on the net.
In this context, Carola Rackete, Sea-Watch 3 commander, represents an interesting case history: in the media it was reported that it was impossible to find evidence confirming the details of the curriculum she published on LinkedIn (1). Indeed, the complete absence of any such evidence was alleged, given that Carola doesn’t have any social media profile apart from LinkedIn.
So we decided to perform a simulation aimed to verify what an OSINT research can lead starting from information about Carola freely available on-line.
So, we decided to perform a simulation aimed at verifying the results that OSINT research can achieve starting from information about Carola that was freely available on-line.
Premise: each piece of information, document and image presented in this post is freely available on-line and can be consulted by anyone based on the privacy setting of the owners.
We took our starting point from what had already been revealed and reported in the media::
- Carola LinkedIn profile (1);
- some information about her family which reveals that:
- her father, 74 years old, is called Ekkehart;
- her mother is called Siglinde;
- she probably has a sister or close relative, as shown in the family picture reported in the media .
Additional useful information came from a post by David Puente (3), an expert debunker, who wrote to some of the schools and companies listed on LinkedIn, receiving some interesting replies.
No useful information is obtained through third-party services able to identify email addresses linked to LinkedIn accounts.
Starting from her training:
In both cases the replies received by Puente confirmed what Carola had written on LinkedIn.
In retrospect, we can say that Carola was in South Georgia, where she likely gathered the data used in her thesis at Edge Hill University: “Impact of fur seal recovery on nest site distribution of wandering albatross on South Georgia”.
About the attended of Jade University after we indentified the school domain we performed Google dork queries using both strings “rackete” and “rakete”, without any result.
Regarding her attendance at Jade University, once the domain of the institution had been identified, we carried out searches through Google dork both using the term “rackete” and “rakete”, without any result.
With respect to the workplace, the research was carried out starting from the least recent use, the one at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz,
Once the domain of the institute (awi.de) is identified, the correct dork returns 13 results of interest.
After eliminating some redundant results, we obtain some documents, official reports of the scientific expeditions of the research institute, which cover the period from October 2011 to January 2013. In each of these Carola is reported as a member of the crew, with duties ranging from navigation assistant, in 2011, to third and second official:
- Forschungsschiff METEOR – Kapverden Region, Ampère Seamount und Mittelmeer Reisen – Reise Nr. 83 / Cruise No. 83 13. Okt. 2010 – 07 Feb . 2011
https://epic.awi.de/id/eprint/37063/35/m83-expeditionsheft.pdf (pag. 32, 33)
- Expeditionsprogramm NR. 88 FS Polarstern 28/10/2011 -> 16/05/2012
- The Expedition of the Research Vessel “Polarstern” to the Antarctic in 2012 (ANT-XXVIII/3) 07/01/2012 -> 11/03/2012
- expeditionsprogramm nr. 89 fs polarstern 14/06/2012 -> 07/10/2012
- The Expedition of the Research Vessel “Polarstern” to the Arctic in 2012 (ARK-XXVII/1) 14/06/2012 -> 15/07/2012
- The Expedition of the Research Vessel “Polarstern” to the Arctic in 2012 (ARK-XXVII/2) 15/07/2012 -> 30/07/2012
- Expedition Programme No. 90 RV PolarsternN 27/10/2012 -> 19/03/2013
- The Expedition of the Research Vessel “Polarstern” to the Antarctic in 2012/2013 (ANT-XXIX/2) 20/11/2012 -> 18/01/2013
- The Expedition of the Research Vessel “Polarstern” to the Antarctic in 2013 (ANT-XXIX/6) 08/06/2013 -> 12/08/2013
- ANT-XXIX/2 – Wochenbericht Nr. 5 Auf ins Jahr 2013 31. Dezember 2012 – 6. Januar 2013
With regards to her service provided at Greenpeace, Silversea Cruises and on the Ocean Diamond we have not identified any findings, as can be expected, considering her employers’ compliance with privacy regulations.
Specifically, we worked with dork relating to the domains of the bodies involved, limiting the search to the time frames in which Carola is indicated as operating in the companies / institutions. We sought confirmation also in the images where a face could make up for the absence of textual citations in documents:
Fleet pro Ship Management – Ocean Diamond
Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise
without finding any results of interest.
An initial search for evidence regarding her duties carried out at the British Antarctic Survey did not return any satisfactory results. Subsequently, the research took advantage of the information received and published by David Puente
I can confirm Ms Rackete was employed as a Second Officer (Navigation) onboard the RRS James Clark Ross and RRS Ernest Shackleton. She was employed by British Antarctic Survey from 2016-2017.” (3)
In fact, a search limited to the period 01/01/2016 -> 31/12/2017 using the dork
“RRS James Clark Ross” rackete
immediately returns results of interest.
Also, in this case we are dealing with scientific expedition reports, in which Carola Rackete is indicated as part of the crew, more specifically the second and first officer.
- RRS James Clark Ross JR15005 Cruise Report
Report of RRS James Clark Ross cruise JR15005, February-March2016
- British Antarctic SurveyJR15006 Cruise report31stMarch-26thApril 2016
The links to the two reports provide us with a further lead, and using the dork (without time limitation)
site:www.bodc.ac.uk carola rackete
we can identify a third report on the previous JR15004 scientific expedition,
- JR15004 Cruise ReportSouth Orkney Ecosystem Studies15 January – 23 February 2016
Performing the same research using a dork with the name “RRS Ernest Shackleton” does not lead to the identification of any results of interest.
The results obtained so far seem to have been more than enough to confirm Carola’s activities and professional skills, so we didn’t perform any searches related to the following:
- Poseidon Expedition
- social account/pace/profile of the companies involved.
After that we focused on the presence of Carola on social networks. To do this we obviously started from the photograph that portrays her with the family:
We know that her father, Ekkehart Rackete (74 years old) from Hambühren, Celle, Low Sassonia, is a former German navy officer, with a LinkedIn profile (4), which at the moment is off-line and not available for consultation. It seems he doesn’t have a Facebook profile.
In terms of her mother, we know that her name is Siglinde, but connecting that name with her husband’s surname does not help in identifying any social accounts.
The girl at her mother’s side (see first picture) can be identified as Carola’s older sister, for whom a Facebook account can be quickly identified.
The account does not provide any information and does not show any friend / contact. However, among the photos it is possible to identify the family one published in the media, uploaded on Facebook in September 2015.
Going deeper into the examination of the photographs linked to the profile of her sister, a new photograph of Carola can be identified.
The contour data from this photo allows us to identify her Facebook profile.
Moreover, Carola’s Facebook profile is publicly indicated in several posts of his friends concerning the Sea-Watch 3 issue, so there was no particular intent to keep it hidden.
An examination of posts, photos, groups, etc. connected to the account does not lead to identifying “politicized” content. The image that derives from Carola is that of a person who is extremely close to environmental and human rights issues.
Investigating the profiles of Carola’s contacts and those who have commented on or liked her content, we find scientific researchers, explorers and environmentalists; content linked to extremist political areas have not been identified.
Turning our attention to other social accounts, a reverse search of the images of the FB profile did not allow us to identify others, the same for the username.
So we executed a partial reverse assessment, trying to identify the Twitter profiles of those who had interacted with Carola on Facebook, giving likes, reactions or comments to her posts and images.
The examination of 49 users led to the identification of 11 possible Twitter accounts, most of them with no tweets or with privacy settings that do not provide any information.
The research activity could have been a very protracted process, focusing on the certain identification of the Twitter and Instagram profiles of the people who interacted with Carola in order to examine their contacts on these platforms, and … but all this was outside of scope of this research.
The purpose of this post was, starting from a person, Carola Rackete, considered to be untraceable / unidentifiable on the web, to highlight the possibilities and limits of OSINT research, as well as the effort it requires.
We didn’t want to go into the political and news stories that saw Carola Rackete as a protagonist, we tried to maintain a detached and impartial attitude. Any comments that are not related to the purely technical question and to the research activity will be blocked / cancelled.