Cyber Security Students help find missing persons


As part of Australian Cyber Week 2019, 26 staff and students from the University of Adelaide joined the Missing Persons Hackathon in collaboration with the Tallinn University of Technology (Estonia), the Australian Federal Police, Trace Labs and AustCyber on Friday October 11.

Hackathon group

The Missing Persons Hackathon saw a gathering of ethical hackers and investigators using online investigative techniques within the bounds of the law to find new leads on real missing persons cases in Australia.

Contestants used their cyber skills to gather open source intelligence (OSINT) on long-term and current missing persons using only information that is publicly available on the internet. The goal of this was to generate new leads on cases that can provide assistance to the relevant Australian policing jurisdictions in their investigations.

Organised by Dr Matthew Sorell (Electrical and Electronic Engineering) with A/Prof Nick Falkner (Computer Science), Dr Cate Jerram (Business School) and Lt Cdr Kieren Lovell (Tallinn University of Technology), 6 University of Adelaide teams consisting of 4 people each joined a total of 96 ethical hacking teams across Australia, generating 10 new leads per minute in the search for 12 persons missing for as long as 10 years to as recently as 3 months.

The event was won by the local Saab Systems team in Adelaide, with 97 leads and 5790 points. 

The University of Adelaide teams came 10th, 13th, 20th, 36th, 66th and 75th overall, generating a total of 175 leads across our teams.

In addition to learning open source intelligence (OSINT) skills, the work of our students is making a real difference in the lives of families around Australia.

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