5 Free Anonymous Internet Investigation Tools

Foolproof ways to avoid tipping off your investigation subjects when you research them online

Posted by Dawn Lomer in on October 6th, 2016

Almost every investigation requires at least some internet research. But when you’re researching the subject of an investigation you may want to avoid warning the person that they are being investigated. If tipped off, it’s easy for suspects to remove social media posts and lock down privacy settings to hide information before you have a chance to see it.

Fortunately, there are ways to keep your identity hidden while conducting internet investigations and it’s a good idea for every investigator to know how to use these tools to search anonymously online.

For a comprehensive guide to searching online, read the article 101+ OSINT Resources for Investigators.

 DuckDuckgo

DuckDuckgo is a search engine that doesn’t track users, nor does it target your IP address or your search history. You get unfiltered results that aren’t targeted to your location, previous searches, or other information known about you. You get more results and you’ll see the same results anyone else using this tool sees. Your results are also from better sources, such as crowdsourced sites and partnerships with other search engines.

HTTrack

HTTrack is a web crawler that provides a way for investigators (and others) to search offline to avoid detection. This tool allows users to download a copy of a website from the internet to a local computer. You can then use your browser to open the site’s pages and search their contents.

The tool has to be downloaded before use.

 Ixquick

Similar to DuckDuckgo, Ixquick doesn’t information about you, such as your IP address, search history or your browser information. Ixquick allows provides a method of searching using a proxy to keep your IP address hidden from the sites you visit. You have three options when you search with Ixquick:

  • Click on the link to go to the page
  • Click on “highlight” to see basic information about a page so that you can decide whether or not you want to visit it

Click on “proxy” to use a proxy to search the site, for maximum privacy. The website you visit sees Ixquick’s IP address instead of the address of the searcher.

Tor

Perhaps the best known of the anonymous search tools on the internet is Tor, which stands for “the onion router” the name given to the original project software. Tor is notorious for its nefarious uses, but it is also a valuable tool in the online investigator’s arsenal. Tor masks user identities by distributing communications through a worldwide network of relays that are maintained by volunteers. It is used by criminals, law enforcement and everyone in between who has reason to hide their browsing activity and their physical location from anyone who may be watching.

The downside to Tor is that it must be downloaded, unlike many of the other free anonymous internet search tools.

Yippy

Yippy is a popular search engine for investigators and others who value their privacy on the internet. Originally called Clusty, Yippy is a meta-search engine that provides clusters of results. It is also “family friendly’, delivering only content that its owners consider to be appropriate for all ages.

Yippy does not collect personally identifiable information about users although it may collect anonymous data, such as IP addresses. Yippy uses cookies but does not use them to track behavior of users.

Download the free cheat sheet: OSINT Links for Investigators.

 


Dawn Lomer
Dawn Lomer

Managing Editor

Dawn Lomer is the managing editor at i-Sight Software and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). She writes about topics related to workplace investigations, ethics and compliance, data security and e-discovery, and hosts i-Sight webinars.

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