Bellingcat’s Online Investigation Toolkit
Welcome to Bellingcat’s freely available online open source investigation toolkit. You can follow our work on via our website, Twitter and Facebook. (We also provide three to five day open source investigation workshops.) This is version 5.1 (March 9, 2020). The list includes satellite and mapping services, tools for verifying photos and videos, websites to archive web pages, and much more. The list is long, and may seem daunting. There are guides at the end of the document, highlighting the methods and use of these tools in further detail. We also provide tailored digital forensics workshops. Feel free to suggest tools via email ([email protected]) or Twitter (@trbrtc). To view an outline of the document, click “View” and then “Show document outline”. There’s also one below. The “OSINT Landscape” — a condensed version of the online investigation toolkit below — can be download in high resolution here.
1. Maps, Satellites & Streetview
2. Location Based Searches
3. Image & Video Verification
4. Social Media
6. Date & Time
7. WhoIs, IPs & Website Analysis
8. People & Phone Numbers
9. Archiving & Downloading
10. Company Registries
11. Data Visualization
12. Online Security & Privacy
13. Finding Experts
15. Guides & Handbooks
1 — Maps, Satellites & Streetview
Check out this handy flow chart for finding and acquiring satellite imagery.
Platform to get a preview of their imagery and order images.
Baidu’s mapping service offering satellite imagery, street maps, and streetview (“Panorama” - zh:百度全景).
Bing’s mapping service offering satellite imagery and street maps.
More recent and higher resolution imagery than Google, e.g. in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Difficult to check the date of the imagery.
Convert geographic coordinates between different notation styles.
UTM grid zones dmap.co.uk/utmworld.htm
The site for the European Space Agency and for images from Copernicus’ six Sentinel satellites.
Better resolution than Landsat. See explanation from the website GISGeography on how to download free images.
A commercial service that collects data daily from public and commercial imagery providers.
Will help journalists. “We do not charge for these requests, only ask that they are credited.” (via GIJN)
Satellite imagery vendor.
Preview available via the catalogue, search tool very easy to use.
Combines Google’s road maps, aerial view, and street view in one embeddable tool.
From the US Geological Service. Provides mainly US images. Gives access to Landsat satellite data as well as NASA’s Land Data Products and Services. The USGS Global Visualization Viewer (GloVis) provides remote sensing data. The USGS archive contains a complete and well-maintained collection of NASA Landsat data.
EOS Landviewer provides free services for up to 10 images. More images and analysis are available to journalists at a discount. Contact: Artem Seredyuk [email protected] EOS is in the process of developing a service provisionally called EOS Media that will be providing free images and analysis of major natural disasters.
ESA Earth Online
Consolidates European Space Agency’s earth observation data on topics such as temperature, agriculture, and ice sheets.
ESA SNAP is a free remote sensing program created by the European Space Agency, it lets you perform various enhancements and manipulations to remotely sensed data.
Allows querying Google Maps API for two specific places in precise distance from each other within given radius. Useful for geolocating photos and videos.
It’s a script, no user-friendly interface.
Database of location names.
A wide variety of different spellings in various languages. Draws upon many sources, including NGA’s Geonames.
Search engine that lets users visually query images for similar geographic features. The platform from Descartes Labs is built on satellite imagery from Landsat, the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP), and PlanetScope. Description of how to use it.
Google Earth Pro
Add a Bing Maps satellite imagery layer. Historical imagery.
[software] Training guides here.
Google Earth Engine
Open-access satellite imagery and analytical framework
Virtually any satellite imagery collected from NASA, NOAA, USGS, etc. is available.
Google’s mapping service offering satellite imagery, street maps, and streetview.
Many 3D modelled places in Americas, Australia, Europe, N Africa, and SE Asia. Probably the easiest-to-navigate mapping service of all.
No historical satellite imagery, but historic Streetview images available in many places.
More recent satellite imagery than Google in e.g. Iraq.
Maps per country showing industrial plants, e.g. power, hydroelectric, nuclear, coal, oil refineries, etc.
Specifically to industrial plants.
Only mapped per country.
Calculate the amount of people that are standing in the selected Google Maps area.
Crowdsourced street-level photos.
A useful addition to Google Streetview.
Little to no coverage in countries like Syria, Iraq, etc.
Map making app useful for communities, easy to make categories and attributes.
WorldView allows visualization of near real-time imagery from NASA.
A wide array of satellite and aerial images; broad search criteria; and other mapping and visualization tools such as FIRMS for fires. Access to more than a dozen NASA data centres and associated satellite data products. NASA Earth Observations: More than 50 datasets on atmosphere, land, ocean, energy, environment and more.
Old Maps Online
Find old maps through numerous databases all around the world.
Easy-to-use, similar browsing as the DigitalGlobe catalogue.
Open source GIS programme. Here’s a guide how to use it.
Has many user add-ons. A recent update(QGIS 3.0) allows for users to create 3D landscapes using LiDAR data.
A non-profit group that helps the global development community discover, explore and analyze satellite, drone and aerial imagery archives.
Radiant Earth is working with Code of Africa, among others. Apply to gain assistance via their website. Or contact Radiant Earth.
A nonprofit platform, still in beta, that provides hundreds of data sets on the state of the planet’s resources and citizens. It is sponsored by the World Resources Institute and other organizations.
Resource Watch data are free and users can download data.
Combines different satellite services
Includes web based Apple Maps satellite view, great for seeing countries like Afghanistan.
Sentinel Hub Playground
A user-friendly place for Sentinel 2/Landsat images.
Updated every 5-10 days with new imagery, dependent on cloud cover.
Ability to explore a variety of GIS variables eg NDVI or NDWO. The EO Browser facilitates time-lapse reviews.
Generally low resolution of 10m/px.
Tencent Maps (formerly SOSO Maps) is a desktop and web mapping service application and technology provided by Chinese company Tencent, offering satellite imagery, street maps, street view (coverage) and historical view perspectives, as well as functions such as a route planner for traveling by foot, car, or with public transportation. Android and iOS versions are available.
Over 200 years of maps and topography from the Netherlands.
Entire world divided into 3m by 3m squares, and each square is given a 3 word address. For example, the what3words address for Nelson's column in trafalgar square is: cube.soccer.these.
This website is especially useful when referring to remote locations and when you are unable to write down a lengthy sentence of exact coordinates.