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Published on October 19th, 2016 | by EJC

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A Hunchly Way To Investigate Stories Online

Breaking news is broken. This is all too familiar in the world of social media accounts, citizen bloggers and activists all trying to collect and disseminate information during a crisis. Too often during emergency reporting, the speed at which data is being collected overtakes the journalist’s ability to capture content, take screenshots or assemble notes in a low-friction, cohesive manner. This is not due to sloppy journalism, but the general human nature to chase leads as fast as possible and to hone in on interesting areas of the investigation. As humans, we only have so much bandwidth to chase data and properly document it at the same time.

Hunchly is a software package that ships with a Google Chrome extension designed to assist journalists in capturing and analyzing all of the content they view during an investigation. It is designed so that journalists only need to worry about finding good information, removing the burden of taking notes, or capturing screenshots.

Hunchly frees the journalist from having to remember where they got their content from. By simply enabling Hunchly and then moving through your online investigation, Hunchly will capture all of the pages that you visit. It then assembles these pages into your active case file and provides a useful case history that allows you to walk backwards in time to look at all of the pages you captured, how you arrived at those pages, and what the original content was there when the page was visited.

Hunchly allows you to stop thinking about taking screenshots and just focus on your investigation.

The Power of Selectors

Every story has locations, names, landmarks and other specific pieces of information that are the focus of the emergency. Hunchly allows you to track these unique pieces of information through a feature called Selectors. Selectors can be added to your current case by entering it in the Hunchly dashboard or by selecting a piece of text on a web page, right-clicking on it and selecting “Add Text as Selector” from the Hunchly popup menu.

addselectors

Adding Selectors to Hunchly is done via the Dashboard or the Chrome Extension.

Once you have entered a Selector, Hunchly will scan all pages that are being captured and if a Selector is hit you will be notified in the Hunchly Chrome extension. Additionally, Hunchly can also highlight the current Selector hits on a page to call your attention to the fact that you have a hit on the page you are viewing. Hunchly is not only scanning the content that you can see, but also the hidden content that is within the page source code. This can be extremely useful to discover content or pieces of information that you might have otherwise skipped over or missed.

selectorhits

As Selectors are hit, notifications and highlighting bring your attention to them on the page.

All Selector hits are tracked by Hunchly as well – you can always go back and review all Selector hits in the Hunchly dashboard.

Source Review

When it comes time to assemble your story you can use Hunchly to review all of the sources of information that you accessed including their URLs and the timestamp of when you visited them. You can perform powerful keyword searches across your cases to help rediscover new leads or to look for information that might no longer be available such as now-suspended social media accounts or websites that have been knocked offline. As long as you saw it with your eyeballs, and Hunchly was turned on, you will have a record of it.

Use Cases

Hunchly has numerous use cases outside of emergency journalism or crisis reporting. Hunchly is used for investigations into advertising fraud, human trafficking and many others. Hunchly also has the ability to export its case data so that you can collaborate with other journalists or import the data into other open source intelligence tools such as Maltego.

Obtaining Hunchly

Hunchly is commercial software that can be purchased at https://www.hunch.ly for $129.99 Canadian. This gives you 1 year of support and updates for the software, and the flexible user license allows you to install it on

To get a 15% discount on your Hunchly purchase use the discount code: EJCEMERG when checking out.

About the Author:

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Justin Seitz is a respected cyber security expert who has trained and consulted with Fortune 500s, law enforcement agencies, and governments around the world. Author of two Python books that were translated into 7 languages, he has helped to teach tens of thousands of people how to write code to automate computer hacking and OSINT tasks. In October 2014, he presented a unique method for tracking ISIS supporters on Twitter and teaches the only course on how to write code to automatically extract and analyze data from the web and social media. Visit his website here.

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