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AustCyber hackathon to aid NMPCC efforts

For a second year running, AustCyber, along with the Australian Federal Police’s (AFP) National Missing Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC) and Canadian-based non-profit organisation will convene a missing persons capture the flag event during Australian Cyber Week. AustCyber announced that the National Missing Persons Hackathon 2020 will be held as an online event on Thursday, 29 October 2020.

In October 2019, the first hackathon saw 354 ethical hackers and investigators gather across Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne to generate 3912 leads on long-term missing persons selected from existing state and territory police cases.

Hackathon participants, in teams of four, set out to discover information publicly available on the internet (also known as open-source intelligence or OSINT) to aid relevant Australian policing jurisdictions in their investigations for the missing person cases provided for the event.

The Team Leader at the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre, described the issue of missing persons in Australia as complex and multifaceted.

“Over 38,000 missing person reports are submitted to police every year in Australia. This is a huge number, which impacts not only the police who are responsible for finding them, but also the many people who are affected and devastated by the uncertainty and helplessness of having loved ones missing,” she said.

The 2020 hackathon will be scaled to maximise the chances of finding crucial pieces of data. Each registered participant will be provided with free self-paced foundational training modules for OSINT, specifically developed for the Australian OSINT environment.

During October, a webinar series will be delivered by AustCyber featuring OSINT and cybersecurity experts from Australia and the USA. The live-stream on 29 October will provide enhanced user experience for the day, including presentations, mentoring sessions and a live leader board. A new website will also be deployed to provide information to participants and serve as an ongoing resource for the broader community.

Many major organisations, firms and banks have returned as sponsors for 2020, with OSINT Combine joining as a new sponsor. The founder and CEO of OSINT Combine said that OSINT is derived from publicly available information or open-source information.

Using public resources and people in a group setting for a ‘collection activity’ allows the analysts and investigators to spend more time on the critical part of connecting the dots and understanding the picture,” he said.

The concept of this crowdsourced platform originates from the not-for-profit organisation which has provided its CTF model throughout Canada and the United States, with monthly virtual events known as ‘Global OSINT Search Party CTFs’ that allow participation from around the world.

The organisation operates in many locations around the world, working with multiple law enforcement agencies. Tickets to participate in the event go on sale on 1 September 2020 via the website.

According to one expert, open-source intelligence (OSINT) means collecting information from public sources, analysing it, and using it for intelligence purposes. The information sources can be anything from television and print newspapers to blogs and websites, social media, research papers, business and sales documents, and anything you can find online or offline. OSINT is one of many intelligence collection types. The main categories are human intelligence (HUMINT), measurement and signatures intelligence (MASINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), and imagery intelligence (IMINT). Sometimes HUMINT and SIGINT can overlap with OSINT.

In cybersecurity, specialists mine data from open sources, combine pieces of information, and create a map or a profile of the target. The target might be an organisation and its network infrastructure and services they use, a person, or a group of employees that play a vital role in the organisation.

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