Bypassing a Gravatar 404 for OSINT
Tactical OSINT Analyst shares a new OSINT method to bypass Gravatar profile 404s and still get user data
👋 Welcome to The OSINT Newsletter. This issue is a guest post from Tactical OSINT Analyst, a prolific contributor to the open source intelligence community. He shares a lot of his work on his GitHub profile and frequently posts updates on X. In this issue, he shows you how you can turn a Gravatar profile that returns a 404 into a rich source of data for OSINT.
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Gravatar, which stands for Globally Recognized Avatar, is a service by Automattic that allows users to assign a unique avatar to their email addresses. This avatar is then used across various online platforms, forums, and websites. While Gravatar is an immensely useful service, it is essential to be aware of potential vulnerabilities and oversights that can be exploited for Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) purposes. And this is what we are going to do, as OSINT Analysts we have to know how to take advantage of various bugs and vulnerabilities.
You only need to upload your image and create your public profile once. So, from that point on, whenever you hop on a Gravatar-enabled website, your Gravatar image and public profile will simply come along with you each time.
If your target has a WordPress account, you know you are going to find something on Gravatar.
How do you know when your image will appear?
For your Gravatar to appear on other sites you choose to use, interact with, or comment on, here is an overview on what has to happen:
The website you're on must support the Gravatar service. While many platforms and blogs already integrate this feature, it's not universal. Big platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn still haven't adopted Gravatar.
Ensure the email address tied to your profile on other platforms matches the one registered to your Gravatar account. Gravatar relies on your email to deliver your image across sites. If your email isn't in the Gravatar system, your image simply won't show up.
Check your Gravatar's rating against the site's allowed ratings. Many platforms limit Gravatar visuals to G or PG ratings. For instance, WordPress.com's default setting only allows G-rated images. If your Gravatar exceeds the site's permissible rating, it'll default to a standard image instead of your selected Gravatar.
JSON Profile Data
Here’s how Gravatar defines JSON:
More about JSON Profile Data
Be aware that you can append .json after any profile link to get the data in JSON format. You can find some interesting information such as the email MD5 hash, which can then be decoded to provide the user's email address.
You can get:
About me (Data about the user)
Social network accounts
Reverse searching with the email MD5 hash
All URLs on Gravatar are based on the hashed value of an email address.
Images and profiles are accessed via the hash of an email, and it is the first and primary way of identifying a Gravatar user.
I have an MD5 hash of an email and would like to know more and to check if there is anything on Gravatar.
So we can reverse search by doing it this way:
This will then take us automatically to the user if the user used Gravatar.
Unfortunately, we get a 404, this means the user has never existed or deleted his/her profile.
In OSINT, and during investigations, you should not give up and always try pushing harder and further, and I must admit that I am never one to quit easily.
Searching for new techniques
I enjoy exploring new OSINT techniques and vulnerabilities. I became familiar with the JSON profile format because I've been actively contributing to the WhatsMyName Project over the past few months. I've also had the privilege of learning from Webbreacher, a renowned figure in the OSINT community. He's always willing to share his knowledge, and I've gained valuable insights while collaborating with him to expand the coverage of WhatsMyName to include many new websites.
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