Disclaimer: this write-up is for educational purposes only. Use your skills for good.
It’s been a while, folks. Let’s hear it.
Andrew Tierney, aka @cybergibbons, does this thing where he posts all sorts of exotic pictures. Good luck trying to locate him though! Nonetheless, today, we’re going to stare the Gods right in the eye. Let’s get to it.
Here’s what we know about Andrew’s whereabouts: He lives somewhere in the UK. No, really, that’s all we know. However, our sole interest lies in figuring out where this picture was taken.
Tools we need:
* Yandex Image Search
* Google Maps
Our main goal is to gain an initial foothold as to what the approximate location might be—this place could be anywhere. Sky, wind turbines (mind the number), river (mind the width), power lines (mind those too, trust me), and grass. Not much going on in terms of giveaway details, I must say. So, let’s fire up Yandex.
Yandex is an invaluable resource for reverse image search. Feel free to use whichever search engine you like.
We can either upload the image after having downloaded it, or paste the hotlink into the URL field.
The first image looks very similar to the one posted! Looks like we got a potential foothold. It’s time for Google Maps => “River Nene UK”
Now, we can switch Layers to Satellite view, zoom in, and try—*record scratch*…Wait a minute. We’re gonna be looking for wind turbines. You know, those PERFECTLY VERTICAL THINGS? Not super cool with a 2D top-view. That’s something to be aware of. Also, let’s have a look at this same point, zooming in on Satellite view.
Let’s zoom out and follow the river, maybe Southwest?
By the looks of it, we should be in Andrew’s shoes. Let’s rotate the map so that we’ll be facing the green plains, instead of the residential area. While we’re at it, let’s tilt it as well (notice the 3D button yet?)
P.s you can rotate and tilt the map by holding down the Shift button as you pan around with the mouse.
By the Gods, that is a huge area! Let’s zoom in a bit while following the river Northwest (relative to our current view)
Oh, hello! Divines bless 3D Mapping! Let’s follow.
So, we’ve found wind turbines, but doesn’t that body of water look too wide? Plus there’s neither enough green on the other side of where Andrew would be standing, nor enough relative distance. There is green a bit far back to the west, however, so we’ll turn our view to face the turbines.
Let’s bring back the original picture to pinpoint the exact location.
Should we be worried that there are 4 turbines instead of 3? Not really. Bear in mind Satellite images are taken at different time intervals. An additional turbine could have been installed after the Satellite images were taken. We have other features that check out. Now, let’s focus on this curious looking rail. This is what we wanna find, and for that, we’ll switch back to 2D; it’s gonna be so much easier to spot this shape from the top!
Let’s switch back to 3D view, and try to nail a digital impersonation of Andrew.
Congratulations! You are now a binary representation of Andrew Tierney. How cool is that?!
A few things to note here:
1) Different environments will require different tools and techniques.
2) Spatial awareness is your friend. Are you looking for a building that’s relatively easy to identify from above? Or are you looking for a needle in a haystack like the wind turbines in this case?
3) Take note of what geographical location capabilities are offered. Street View? 3D vs 2D? Terrain? Local images? Maximum zoom levels?
I had fun cracking this challenge! I hope you learned something new as well.
Special thanks to Andrew Tierney, THE @cybergibbons, for granting me permission to make this write-up happen!
Also, please make sure you have either implicit permission before gathering OSINT on social media (#OSINT Challenge, Where am/was I?, etc.), or explicit permission from the person you’re trying to find (if it’s for a challenge or anything that’s not LE-related. For those, please look up TraceLabs Search Party CTF). While you might think it’s fun, harmless, and cool to show a person their location publicly, you can expose them to potential threats and harm. Please think about this before performing unauthorized social media OSINT.
Thanks for stopping by,