This is a guest blog post by Krzysztof Wosiński who is a quality and cybersecurity engineer of military IT products by day / OSINT researcher and social engineering enthusiast by night. Author of the OSINT hints series on Sekurak (in Polish).
I bet most of you (if not everyone) performed a reverse image search using one of the popular search engines. You upload a file or take a photo and in the blink of an eye you get the results of similar images, a list of websites which contain them, suggestions of related topics, etc. But as usually with these kinds of services, some of them do better than others, some have more options for further search while the others have less.
This little experiment of mine was performed for three most well-known search engines with the “reverse image search” capabilities: Google, Bing and Yandex. Some of you may find the results quite surprising. First things first, however.
The reverse image search option can be very helpful in all kinds of investigations. Uploading a picture (by selecting a file from your computer or just dragging and dropping the image in the search field) or pasting a link from which the service will download the image provides us with a quick clue on where in the world the photo was taken, what object it depicts or who is the person in the picture. It is worth considering that the three aforementioned services differ in mode of their operation which is evident if we compare the results from searching the same samples. In some cases these search engines have problems with downloading an image from a provided link, which seems to work in our local browser – what helps in that kind of situation is to download the picture and then upload it from our computer. Since my recent OSINT activities had a lot to do with geolocation, I decided to first check how Google, Bing and Yandex cope with photos from around the world.