"The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential".
- Steve Ballmer, former CEO Microsoft
Different types of search engines specialise in different types of searches. For example:
General Search Engines:
Meta Search Engines:
A meta-search engine (or aggregator) uses another search engine's data to produce own results. They take an input from the user and simultaneously send out the queries to third party search engines for results.
Unlike general search engines like Google, clustering search engines gather the result into groups around a certain theme. In other cases, they provide the related keywords that we might not have thought, which helps zero-in on our goal. Examples include:
We have already read about “Carrot2” in the chapter “Alternatives to Google”.
National Search Engines:
As the name suggests, they specialise in searches for a particular country. Here, we shall only focus on Indian search engines.
Code Search Engines:
They search the source codes across millions of websites around the world. The most famous code search engines include:
FTP Search Engines:
FTP servers are the computers which are used to store files with a public IP Address. They are rarely secured with proper access credentials, thus most of them are public. FTP search engines specialise in their searches.
Similar sites search engines, as the name suggests, search similar websites on the internet. They allow searches by:
They also find the relation between multiple websites. The most famous “Similar sites” search engines are:
Child-Friendly Search Engines:
They are designed and customised for kids. The search results are child-safe sites and have pages written specifically for them. They also have a simple, easy-to-understand content and allow parental control over keywords and site blocking.
In this chapter, we shall focus exclusively on the “People Search Engine”. They specialise in finding the content about an individual on the internet. Many of them utilise general search engines like Google etc. to compile the data, and then present them in a user friendly format.
There are hundreds of people search engine for US and European subjects. However, only one such search engine Pipl, provides useful information about Indian subjects too.
Pipl search engine (https://www.pipl.com/) is the most comprehensive people search engine on the internet. It has a repository of over 3.23 billion users! The website allows searches by:
You can also filter the results by location.
After we enter the search term and tap on search, Pipl generates a new page full of information. The results include links to social network profiles with the same name as our input.
The common networks include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Snapchat etc. However, lesser known social networks are often present too, like Hi5, Pinterest, MySpace, Tumblr. Pipl also allows searching through their “Application Programming Interface”.
Real Life Application:
Once we were investigating a stalking and women harassment case and the stalker belonged to a well to do family. Before proceeding with an FIR we tried finding out all the possible information about the accused. We started with Pipl as our first stop. And, we were surprised to find him on many dating sites, despite being married.
So, Pipl search engine gave us information, which otherwise would have been very difficult to find. Fortunately, in this case the user name was unique, which helped us to get much accurate results.
Using Google advanced operators, we can find new information. However, for effective Google searches, we must place the search term within the double quotes to eliminate the un-desired results.
Secondly, we should use the site operator. For example, if the target’s user name is “Ramesh Kumar”, then we should search:
site:instagram.com “Ramesh Kumar”
site:facebook.com “Ramesh Kumar”
And other similar sites like MySpace, LinkedIn etc.
Thirdly, we must search for the target’s resume. They often contain sensitive information not posted anywhere else like phone number, email address, physical address etc. If the target’s name is “Arushi” we should search:
“Arushi” “Resume” filetype:doc
“Arushi” “Curriculum Vitae” filetype:doc
“Arushi” “CV” filetype:doc
“Arushi” “Resume” filetype:pdf
“Arushi” “Curriculum Vitae” filetype:pdf
“Arushi” “CV” filetype:pdf
“Arushi” “Resume” site:docs.google.com
“Arushi” “Curriculum Vitae” site:docs.google.com
“Arushi” “CV” site:drive.google.com
“Arushi” “Resume” site:drive.google.com
“Arushi” “Curriculum Vitae” site:drive.google.com
“Arushi” “CV” site:drive.google.com
"Every time there's a new tool, whether it's internet or cell phones or anything else, all these things can be used for good or evil. Technology is neutral; it depends on how it's used".
- Rick Smolan, American photographer
Sometimes when we get a call/ message from unknown numbers, we wish to know their true identity. Especially when the person on the other end looks suspicious. A typical example is a message which reads somewhat like “KaunBanegaCrorpati me aap lucky winner h 25 lakh ke. Paise lene ke liye aap humare branch manager ko call kare, unka number 9000000000 h”.
In such cases law enforcement officials also need to establish the true identity of the messenger, in order to catch the fraudster. For this they can avail legal channels, like ask for CAF, CDR and other details from the concerned Internet Service Provider.
However, the procedure may involve undue delay, and not everyone can avail legal channels. So, here we shall discuss the freely available public resources, to get nearly accurate information and that too faster.
For a given telephone number, ideally there should be three phases of search:
Phase 1:To identify the type of number (landline, cellular or internet) and the service provider.
Phase 2:To find out the subscriber information such as name and address associated with the number.
Phase 3:To locate any online service or product associated with the given number.
There are hundreds of websites to find information on telephone numbers in USA and Europe. However, only few websites work well for Indian users.
There are many service providers in India like Jio, Airtel, Vodafone, BSNL etc. Knowing the service provider is essential for law enforcement agencies to prevent wasting time by asking records from companies that have no relevant data to provide. In other words, identifying the carrier, enables the police to ask for “Common Application Form”, “Call Detail Records” and other details from the right carrier.
The services below identify the exact service provider for practically any number.
Free Carrier Lookup:
Free Carrier Lookup (https://freecarrierlookup.com/) is one of the best options available today to know the carrier information. To use this service, always use the country code “91” in the first box. The interface of this lookup is:
Along with the carrier information it also provides additional information like:
We may also use their free API service.
For additional accuracy, you may try recharging the number with the identified carrier. If allowed to proceed after entering the target’s number, means the information is accurate.
Such databases, in the past identified telephone numbers on landline's caller ID display. Now they work on cellular telephone numbers too, with superb accuracy.
This Reverse lookup website (https://www.zlookup.com/) has always amazed us with its accuracy. It helps in finding the subscriber information, especially the name associated with the number.
This service is as reliable as True caller. Even when True caller shows wrong subscriber information in some cases, this service shows the right details.
To use this service, remember to choose “India” from the drop down box as shown above.
True Caller is the most popular telephone number lookup service in India. Most of us have installed and used this application in our phones. After installation, when we receive a call from an already saved numbers, it simply displays that contact. However, when the caller is not in our contact list, it searches its database and provides the result accordingly. The results are generally shockingly accurate. Most of us wonder how?
When we install the application, we give it the permission to collect all of our contacts and upload them to their master database. Thus, billions of users across the globe have uploaded their “Contact list” in the True Caller server, for the world to see. No wonder this service is so accurate.
You can also search using their website https://www.truecaller.com/
However, we have found that Zookup works equally good for Indian subjects.
Pipl search engine (https://www.pipl.com/) allows search using a “telephone number”. We can also filter the results by location. We should enter the number without dashes or spaces similar to 1234567890. This improves the accuracy of the results.
The result identifies any profiles created with the given number. The information received from these profiles often includes date of birth, close friends, full name etc.
Search engine should always be considered when searching for information about a given telephone number. As explained in the chapter “How to Perform Best Google Searches”, we must place the number within double quotes to search effectively. However, at times the numbers are not in standard format. Criminals and tech experts, do this deliberately to confuse both the search engines as well as spammers. For example, consider the following numbers in letter:
Similarly, in words or mix of letter and words:
So, when we don’t get results for the standard number search, we may use Google’s “OR” operators as explained below.
“201-555-1212” OR “201.555.1212” OR “(201) 5551212” OR “(201) 555-1212” OR “two zero one five five five one two one two” OR “two zero one five five five 1212” OR “two zero one 555 one two one two” OR “two zero one 555 1212”
Additionally, we may search only the last four digits of the number. We shall then receive many false positives, but are less likely to miss any of the relevant results. Finally, the quotation marks are even more important in these non-standard number searches, to prevent the hyphen from being seen as an operator.
Real Life Application:
Once we were searching for all the possible information about a drug peddler’s number. The standard number search, revealed no information. However, searching for the last four digits of the number, provided us the desired lead.