Using Twitter for Data Mining and Information Gathering

Keep on Guard!


We’ve mentioned Twitter a few times lately as it has become a larger and larger part of the social web and the premier ‘micro-blogging’ platform.

There was a recent Phishing issue on Twitter and before that Twitter Jacking and a CSRF bug that allowed auto-following.

Due to the large update of Twitter, the amount of datable available on the site and it’s easily searchable nature it has become a great platform for data-mining and information gathering (the first and sometimes most important parts of any pen test/vuln ass or security test).

Twitter is fun. It’s also a powerful research tool. People increasingly use Twitter to share advice, opinions, news, moods, concerns, facts, rumors, and everything else imaginable. Much of that data is public and available for mining.

Here’s how to use Twitter to gather useful information about topics, companies, and individuals. I’ll cover native Twitter features, as well as third-party tools with catchy names, such as 5and2fish, Twitter Venn, TwitterFriends, PeopleBrowsr , Twitturly, Twitter Spectrum, and others.

Most of the techniques mentioned here don’t require you to be a registered Twitter user. If you use Twitter, consider what data tidbits you release there, and whether you need to be more careful.

People don’t tend to be so careful or post in such a considered manner when using Twitter as the tidbits posted are so short and off-the-cuff.

This leads to an interesting source of information for people like us doing research about an individual or organization. You can really get a good gauge on the publics feelings for a certain topic too by searching Twitter for relevant keywords.

For example if you search Twitter for ‘Darknet‘ you can see some people mentioning our posts and one guy pretty consistently re-syndicating our content onto the micro-blogging platform.

As you gather information on Twitter, be mindful of others attempting to manipulate you into arriving at their conclusions by feeding you misinformation. Cross-check data and understand its sources. For more on this, see Is Twitter A Market Manipulator’s Dream on the TwiTip blog. If the topic of reputational attacks interests you, also look at the SpinHunters blog.

If using Twitter to share information and stay in touch with your friends, be mindful of how others might misuse what you reveal about yourself, others, or your company. In the words of Wired magazine’s Steven Levy, “No matter how innocuous your individual tweets, the aggregate ends up being the foundation of a scary-deep self-portrait. It’s like a psychographic version of strip poker–I’m disrobing, 140 characters at a time.”

It’s an article well worth reading if you are a Twitter user or not, if you are an infosec professional it gives you another source to search when you are doing information gathering or data-mining tasks.

The Internet is always evolving along with the way people use it, as it becomes a more social platform – more information is bound to be ‘exposed‘ online – for us to find..

Source: SANS ISC

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