Surfing the Net
A Private Investigators Guide to the Internet
Joseph Seanor


Mr. Seanor Will Be Speaking At The 96 NAIS PI Convention

Mr. Seanor Was Selected As 1996 NAIS Investigator Of The Year

Private Investigators use many different tools for solving a case, and one of these tools can be the
Internet. The Internet is a collection of computers around the world that allow people from all over the world to share files and communicate Today the Internet has over 2.5 million computers connected to it with over 4 new users added every minute!

The Internet provides a source of information for Investigators that is unparalleled. Instead of having to go to the library for information, you can access many types of information via the Internet. Not only can you get newspapers, magazine articles, programs, but also people that are experts in many different fields. Anyone can access the Internet as long as they know how, and the cost can be minimal.

To access the Internet it takes a computer, modem, software, and an Internet provider. The computer can be either Macintosh or a PC, the choice is yours to make. The software that needs to be used is a telecommunications program such as Procomm Plus, Smartcom, Crosstalk, or any number of other telecommunications, "terminal" programs. Next, you will need to have a modem. A
modem is a device that allows a computer to talk with another computer over the telephone lines, without this the Internet can not be accessed. When choosing a modem you should get one that is as fast as possible, such as a 14.4kbs or a 28kbs modem. It doesn't matter if the modem is also a fax, this does not effect how your modem interacts with other computers.

The last thing you need to do is choose a Internet provider, this can be a rough decision, but with a few pointers you can choose a good Internet provider that does not cost you an arm and a leg. When you look for an Internet provider, the first thing to decide is how much you are willing to spend, and how much time you think you will be online. I spend many hours on the Internet, so I looked for a company that would provide me unlimited access to the Internet at a cheap price. Here are a few guidelines for choosing a provider:


For my own Internet service, I use a provider that allows me to have a shell account with unlimited access for only $19.95 a month. A shell account provides a menu that allows me to choose what I want to do on the Internet. Others may want a graphical interface. A graphical interface allows you to point and click on what you want to do. There is a higher cost associated with graphical interfaces, so if you are on a tight budget you may want to reconsider this. For a list of Internet providers you
can check the current edition of your local newspapers business section. Now that we have a computer, modem, software, and an Internet provider, the next step is to log into the Internet and learn some of the basics of "surfing" the Internet. In this article I have italicized the commands that you would type on the computer so that they are easier to recognize.

Logging In

When you are ready to log into the Internet, the first thing to do is to start your telecommunications program. Once you have started your program you can then dial into the Internet provider. To do this choose Dial from your program and dial the local phone number for your provider. When your computer connects to the Internet you will be presented with:


This is the point when you will type in your username or the
name that was given to you by your Internet provider. Once you have typed in your username, you will then be presented with:


This is where you type in the password given to you by your Internet provider. After logging into the system, you will receive a number of system messages that will provide important information that should be read each time you log onto the Internet. Some of the information will tell you about system outages, new policies, etc. One of the most important things to do upon logging into the Internet for the first time is to change your password. NEVER leave the password that was given to you by the provider as your active password. To do this on a UNIX computer system type in the command:


This will start a command that will ask you for your old password first. After you type in your old password, you will then be prompted for a new password. After you have typed in the new password, you will be asked to type in the new password again to verify the password. If it all works out well, then the password will be changed. It is very important to remember that you should change your password at least once a month. Also, it is very important to remember that you should NEVER choose a password that is simple or easy to guess. A good way of choosing a password is to combine letters and numbers, or
words and numbers.

If you have a shell account your next step will be to type in
the command:


This will start the menu program on the computer that will allow you to choose what you want to do on the Internet. From this point you use your arrow keys to highlight the choice. Each of the important functions will be discussed here
This is the choice you will make to send mail to another person on the Internet, or to read your own mail. This is your personal mailbox just like the one from the US Post Office. When you send mail to another user of the Internet, make sure that you have their complete Email address. An Internet address is broken down like this:


The username is the other persons login name, the @ sign is needed at all times. The provider is the system that provides the user access to the Internet, this name could be one name or two names, it depends on the system. The type is either:

com: commercial
gov: Government
edu: Education (University)
???:Other type of system, sometime a
country 3 letter name

To practice, lets send mail to CIBIR about being added to the Private-Eye mailing list. The commands are:

subject: Subscribe Private-Eye
(now in the body of the message type in something like)
Subscribe Private-Eye Joseph Seanor

Email will make up a majority of the work that you will do on the Internet since talking with other people is how information is gathered. But once you have finished with email, what other exciting things can you do? One of them is getting files from other computer systems on the Internet.


FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. FTP allows you to
connect with another computer system and download files that have been made available to the public. This is perhaps one of the best functions of the Internet that an investigator can use. Using FTP you can connect to any computer and you do not even need an account on the system! Almost every computer system on the Internet has a way that you can login to the system with the username ANONYMOUS. What this does mean is that you can connect and download files from certain areas only, nothing else. Here is the process that you would follow from the FTP choice:

Name of the system you wish to connect with:
Connected to Marketplace.Com
Username: anonymous
Password (use email address for password):

Welcome to Marketplace.

Now that I have logged into the system, I have access to all of the public files that are on the system. Some of the public files can be fonts, programs, games, and even books. When you connect to another computer system, you should keep in mind that these systems are set up much like your home computer, in other words they have a directory structure of files. All the files are not kept in one directory, but are broken down into many different directories. As long as you remember the old DOS tree" structure (picture a tree upside down, the roots are the top and the limbs are directories) you should be able to work your way through the system. To move through a system try the commands:

cd directory : (where directory is the name of the directory you wish to go to)

ls: (will list the files in that directory)

Some of the systems on the Internet that you can practice with are: (check the directories /Pub then /msdos then virus) (this is the US Governments Fedworld computer) (this is Microsoft's computer) (check /pub/ftp-list this lists all ftp
sites) (check /pc/doc-net/ this is
another ftp list) (this computer system is in Finland and has DOS
programs) (this is another DOS program storage
location) (this is the Library of Congress computer) (a very interesting information computer)

This is just a short list of computer systems to FTP to. It all depends on what you are looking for. Now that we know how to log into systems using FTP to download files, there is another method on connecting to a system that gives you even more then just downloading files, and that is Telnet.


Telnet is similar to FTP however, under FTP you can only download files from another system. Using Telnet you can download files, but you can also run programs on the other computer system. Under Telnet, connecting to a system is very similar to connecting via FTP. The important thing to remember is that when you connect to this system you should be careful what you do. You should also remember that to Telnet to a system you must have an account on that system first. Certain systems will publish a public or special username for you to use, or you might need an account set up for you. Connecting to a system using Telnet is much like connecting with FTP, except that you have to have an account on the system you are trying to connect to.

Name of the system you wish to connect with: Connecting
Connected to Marketplace.Com

Welcome to Marketplace.
Some of the systems that you might want to Telnet to are: (for a copy of Pretty Good Privacy program) (this site has a public access Telnet
section) (this site also has a public access Telnet

This list is short, but remember that you must have permission or an account to access a system via Telnet. Now the question is, how can you find a specific file with hundreds of thousands of computers on the Internet? Meet Archie!

Archie is a program that will search a database of files for a
particular file. Archie will only search systems that can be
accessed from an FTP that allows the username anonymous. If you would like to find a copy of the shareware program TRUMPET, then you would issue the following command from your system prompt (not on a menu):

archie -s trumpet

This will search for all files that have the substring trumpet (case sensitive) in it. Archie is simple to use, but sometimes it will take a long time to respond, don't worry Archie is still working just give it time. Once you have located your file of choice, then use FTP as described above to access the system and download the file. Programs and other software are great to be able to get, but what about the real reason to use the Internet, information. To search all of the systems for information in the form of documents you will want to try Gopher.

Gopher is a document server that uses a menu to search for information Gopher has many documents all over the Internet and keeps them all listed for you in an easy to use format. As you use gopher, you can easily move from one Gopher server to another across the Internet. One thing to remember here is that each Gopher server has a different set of menus, it is always best to try and start at the "top" of the Gopher servers and work your way out. All you have to do is choose Gopher from your menu, or if you exit the menu and type in:


Then you should have access to the Gopher program. Always remember to try and start at the top, or at least as close as you can to the top. To stay up-to-date on the latest FTP, Telnet, and World Wide Web sites, read the Private-Eye mailing list.

IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat. This is the "CB Radio" of the Internet. Here you can access a "channel" on any subject and "talk" with many other people on the Internet for hours on end. When you access the IRC, one of the first commands you should issue is the help command:


Another useful command when you start an IRC session is the nick command, this will change the name that people see when you talk":

/nick Cibir

Usenet Newsgroups

The Usenet newsgroups are perhaps one of the biggest attractions on the Internet. A newsgroup is like a bulletin board where you can post notes and people will reply to them. Usenet groups are broken down into many different subjects from the normal to the bizarre. Usenet groups have there own naming convention:


alt groups that have a wide coverage of topics
biz business related topics
sci science related topics
misc topics that really don't fit anywhere else
soc social and socializing topics
news news and current topics
rec recreation related topics
comp computer related topics

This naming convention can give you an idea as to what sort of areas you are dealing with on the Usenet groups. Some of the more interesting newsgroups are:


These are just a few of the newsgroups to choose from on the Internet. If you can think of a topic, then you will find a newsgroup about it on Usenet. If you are using TIN, then to find a topic, once you have chosen Usenet Newsgroups a list of the newsgroups will be presented to you, at this point all you do is press the / key (has a question mark above it) and you will be prompted for your search subject. Here are some useful TIN commands are:

/ searches for a topic
y yanks in ALL newsgroups
s subscribe to a new newsgroup
u remove a newsgroup from your list
w write a note on a newsgroup
q quit

As you can see Usenet newsgroups are a great source of information on any subject area in the world. All you have to do is search for the right topic, post a note and wait for a response. Usenet groups can provide a tremendous amount of information on a subject, but you can also get some misinformation as well. As the popularity of the Internet grows, so will the con artists and scams move into the Internet as they are with stock "tips." As you spend more time on the Usenet groups you will learn that each group has an etiquette that they follow in order to maintain some order. In order to have a successful time using the Usenet groups, for a short time just read the other notes that are posted to the groups you are interested in. After reading the other notes, look for the newsgroup FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and read the FAQ before posting. Also in either email or notes posted on the Usenet groups if you use ALL CAPS YOU ARE SHOUTING AT SOMEONE. Do not worry if your first postings are not accepted by everyone, or that you do not get the response that you are
looking for, just keep trying.

Using the Internet is a great adventure for anyone that is willing to take on the task of learning something new. And that is the important thing to remember, this is a new area that you as a Private Investigator are venturing into, and as such you need to learn. If you do not expect to be an expert overnight then you should do fine. The resources are there on the Internet to help you if you ask, and no question is to dumb to ask, even if some people do not believe that. If you have any questions about the Internet or anything brought up in this article feel free to connect me and I will help you as best as I can. In fact after reading this please send us some email talking about your company and what you thought about this article. You can reach us at:

Joseph Seanor is President of CIBIR Corporation. Computer Intelligence Business Investigative Resource. CIBIR Corporation specializes in computer investigations, white collar crime, financial crimes, and premise liability. CIBIR Corporation can be reached at:

CIBIR Corporation
PO Box 14191
Washington, D.C. 20044
(703) 780-9033
(703) 780-5703 FAX

Mr. Seanor is quickly becoming the nation's top expert on cyber investigations. He's a former CIA analyist and computer-tecom security expert for the U.S. Department Of Justice. Mr. Seanor was recently "booked" in a feature article in NetGuide concerning private investigations in cyberspace. Mr. Seanor will be speaking at the 1995 NAIS Private Investigator's Convention on private investigators and the use of the Internet. Don't miss it!


Mr. Seanor Will Be Speaking At The 96 NAIS PI Convention

Mr. Seanor Was Selected As 1996 NAIS Investigator Of The Year