Adelaide team wins Australia’s first hackathon to find national missing persons

Adelaide team wins Australia’s first hackathon to find national missing persons

The National Missing Persons Hackathon, held on Friday 11 October as part of Australian Cyber Week 2019, saw 354 participants across ten locations come together to generate 3912 leads for 12 national missing person cases for Australian police.

This is the largest number of leads collected in a single event hosted by the Trace Labs capture the flag (CTF) platform.

Adelaide team SaabAU placed first, submitting 97 pieces of information during the Hackathon. In second place was Sydney team Accenture with 89 submissions, followed by Melbourne team Hiddenagenda with 85 submissions.

“The success of the National Missing Persons Hackathon exceeded all of our expectations. Not only did the event generate high quality leads on missing person cases, it showcased the diverse elements of cyber security, cyber skills and the people who hold them,” said Linda Cavanagh, Manager of the Canberra Cyber Security Innovation Node.

“This event was certainly a game changer, demonstrating the enormous value of crowdsourcing OSINT to police as a complementary method to their investigations”.

The 6-hour event resulted in:

  • 354 participants across 96 teams.
  • 3912 total leads generated.
  • Average of 10 leads submitted by participants every minute.
  • 50 volunteer judges vetting leads in real time.

“We are continually looking for new and creative ways to reach, and engage with, the Australian community to highlight that the issue of missing persons is a community one, not just an issue for police,” said Trish Halligan of the AFP’s National Missing Persons Coordination Centre.

“We are thrilled that this event has captured the attention of not only the wider community, but specifically the ever-expanding Australian cyber community, taking us a step closer to getting the public behind the issue of ‘missingness’ and helping us solve the problem.”

The concept of this crowdsourced platform originates from not-for-profit organisation Trace Labs who were impressed by the volume and quality of leads generated, as well as the genuine enthusiasm shown by the participants, sponsors and the community.

“Seeing over 350 ethical hackers from around Australia come together and use technology to help find missing persons was truly amazing. National support at the event was felt, with engagement from numerous government organisations and companies from diverse industries such as banking, tech and education,” said Adrian Korn, Director of OSINT Operations & Strategic Initiatives at Trace Labs.

“The quality of leads generated on missing persons cases from this event was at an all time high. It's great events like these that show the infinite scalability of crowdsourcing and how it can be used for social good.”

Some of the interesting leads provided by participants included:

  • Drone Footage of area where one of the subjects went missing from.
  • Multiple aliases of missing persons uncovered along with secondary social media accounts.
  • Investigation into revenue streams for missing persons including a website operated by one of the subjects that generated ad revenue.
  • License plate numbers for vehicles.
  • Secret e-mail addresses.
  • Travel Agency accounts such as TripFinder.

Full list of missing persons cases


The AustCyber Canberra Cyber Security Innovation Node partnered with the Australian Federal Police, the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre and Trace Labs to deliver the first ever National Missing Persons Hackathon in Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth.

The event saw participants using their cyber skills to gather open source intelligence (OSINT) on long-term missing persons using only information that was publicly available on the internet to generate new leads on cases to provide assistance to the relevant Australian policing jurisdictions in their investigations.

The National Sponsors of the event were Telstra, FifthDomain, Australian Information Security Association, and in partnership, the Commonwealth Bank and University of New South Wales SECEdu.

The National Missing Persons Hackathon was held during Australian Cyber Week 2019, which ran from 7-11 October 2019.

Further information

AustCyber Canberra Cyber Security Innovation Node (Canberra Node)

The establishment of the Canberra Node is intended to strengthen the ACT region’s cyber security industry and align with the priority actions identified in AustCyber’s Sector Competitiveness Plan. It is a partnership between AustCyber and ACT Government.

The Canberra Node’s strategic work plan identifies three principles to provide a proactive approach in addressing issues identified in the ACT, including:

  • fostering collaboration among government, private sector and academia to create a sharper focus towards innovation and growth;
  • identifying opportunities to increase the supply of talent, enhance capacity of the existing workforce and strengthen educational pathways; and
  • developing a strong and confident ecosystem that supports creating mature, market-ready and competitive local businesses.

Australian Federal Police, National Missing Persons Coordination Centre

The National Missing Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC) is a non-operational arm of the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The NMPCC was established in 2006 to drive national coordination in response to missing persons in Australia, and to complement the investigative role of State and Territory police. Its mandate is to reduce the incidence and impact of missing persons in Australia and as a function of the AFP, the NMPCC is funded by the Federal Government.


Trace Labs

Trace Labs is a not-for-profit organisation designed to help people on the worst day of their lives. Trace Labs leverages a crowdsourced intelligence platform to help with this situation. They have taken the traditional Capture the Flag (CTF) competition that we see at every information security conference and evolved it. It is no longer a theoretical exercise but instead they take the efforts of the contestants to help law enforcement locate missing persons. This takes place through open source intelligence (OSINT) gathering. The CTF focus is OSINT and all flags are for details on the missing persons. These details are collected and then submitted to law enforcement.