2019 in Review

Robert Sell

February 13, 2020

2019 was an amazing year for the members of Trace Labs. Not only did we partner with a record number of organizations and events but also had many new members join the organization. This resulted in more operations and ultimately a lot of intelligence on missing persons submitted to law enforcement to aid them in family reunification of these persons.

As a new organization doing something no one has ever done before, it's very encouraging to look back and see this growth. Between our inaugural event in Toronto in July 2018 and our mid year Vegas BSides/Defcon events in August 2019, Trace Labs facilitated over 27 events across 5 countries, bringing together over 2000 contestants that have worked on a combined 215 missing persons cases to contribute over 20,000 intelligence submissions. While this was amazing growth, it was just the beginning as Trace Labs continued to have events at an increasing rate throughout 2019.

The year started with our event at Seneca College. This was one of many schools we began to work with and marked the beginning of Trace Labs breaking out of just supporting conferences to now becoming part of the curriculum in schools. The OSINT CTF for Missing Persons allowed schools to offer a hands on experience for students while providing a vital service to the community.

Seneca College 2019 - Trace Labs OSINT CTF for Missing Persons
Seneca College - 2019

In March, Trace Labs partnered with BSides Vancouver to provide our OSINT CTF for Missing Persons. At this time, a film crew (FreeThink) was making a mini documentary on the organization. The video is hosted on the FreeThink YouTube site and is their most popular video to date.


In April we partnered with the University of South Wales to offer their school our OSINT CTF. This was the second event with U of SW. Later the same month, we supported BSides Kansas City.

In June, Trace Labs partnered with Pride Toronto to bring a Missing CTF to their pride month festivities. which was called "their most important event" of the month.


This was a very large event which had in attendance local Toronto hackers, security professionals and special guest that included Mayor John Tory.

Toronto Pride 2019 - Trace Labs OSINT CTF for Missing Persons
Toronto Pride 2019

On the same day we supported Pride Toronto, we partnered with the famous OSINT conference on Rhode Island, Layer8. This was the first time we had ever supported two events at the same time.

Toronto Pride 2019 - Trace Labs OSINT CTF for Missing Persons
Toronto Pride 2019
Toronto Pride 2019 - - Trace Labs OSINT CTF for Missing Persons
Toronto Pride 2019

In July, Trace Labs offered its flagship event: The Global OSINT CTF for Missing Persons. This event is very special as it allows contestants from around the world to participate to help generate intelligence on missing persons from around the world. This is truly a global event that brings people together from all corners of the world to focus on a single effort.

The Trace Labs Global OSINT CTF had 110 teams, over 200 contestants, 25 volunteer judges, 190,000 points awarded and over 4000 submissions. This was a new record for amount of intelligence gathered in an event.

US Army - - Trace Labs OSINT CTF for Missing Persons
It was an honour to see teams from the US Army participating in the Global event.


In August, Trace Labs was invited to provide the OSINT CTF for Missing Persons at both BSides Vegas and Defcon. Attending "Hacker Summer Camp" is always a great honour and always results in reuniting with old friends and making so many new ones. Many thanks to all the Trace Labs members who supported this event and attended our social evening.  


During the Defcon Vegas event, Trace Labs held our first "In Person Meetup Social" where we had over 50 Trace Labs members from around the world come together to network and put faces to virtual handles.

Defcon 2019 - Trace Labs and winning team
Defcon winning team - 2019

In September we worked with Penn State University to provide our Missing CTF to their Information Security Students.

Penn State University 2019 - Trace Labs OSINT CTF for Missing Persons
Penn State University - 2019

Later that same month, Trace Labs travelled to St. John's, Canada to support the BSides St. John's event.

BSides St John's 2019 - Trace Labs OSINT CTF for Missing Persons
St John's winning team - 2019

At the end of September, Trace Labs supported BSides Cymru in Europe.

BSides Cymru 2019 - Trace Labs OSINT CTF for Missing Persons
BSides Cymru - 2019

In October, Trace Labs partnered with AustCyber and many others to support the world's first national OSINT for Missing Persons crowdsourced event. This event was held simultaneously in 10 locations across Australia, with 354 contestants, 50 judges and nearly 100 volunteers participating on the day. This was the first time the world had seen such an event and was the top story in Australia for 2 days.

AustCyber 2019 - Trace Labs OSINT CTF for Missing Persons
Australian Nation Missing Persons Hackathon
AustCyber 2019 - Trace Labs OSINT CTF for Missing Persons
Statistics from the world's first National Missing Persons Hackathon
The Trace Labs Team with the Aust Cyber Organizers, Sponsors, and Minister Peter Dutton

The year never slowed down and so in November, Trace Labs went to Quebec, Canada to support Hackfest.

Hackfest 2019 - Trace Labs OSINT CTF for Missing Persons
Hackfest, Quebec, Canada - 2019

In mid December, Trace Labs was invited to Washington, DC to support SANS with our OSINT CTF. The hashtag #OSINTForGood was created during this event and has become popular in our industry.


SANS 2019 - Trace Labs OSINT CTF for Missing Persons
SANS Washington, DC, winning team - 2019

2019 was an amazing year of growth for Trace Labs which included working with schools, conferences, governments and private industry. It resulted in a large amount of intelligence submitted to law enforcement agencies around the world. It also resulted in providing hands on OSINT practice for hundreds of contestants as well as an online community for members to continue to develop their trade craft.

As we move into 2020, Trace Labs would like to thank all the members, judges and sponsors who supported the effort. It is because of your investment, that Trace Labs is able to do what we do. Thank you.

Just some of the amazing press Trace Labs received in 2019:


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