Salisbury attack suspects Alexander Petrov, left, and Ruslan Boshirov
PHOTO: Met Police
Salisbury attack suspects Alexander Petrov, left, and Ruslan Boshirov
Now playing
01:53
Website names second Skripal poisoning suspect
(L/R): Head of Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service Onno Eichelsheim, Minister of Defence Ank Bijleveld and British ambassador Peter Wilson attend a press conference of the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) at The Hague, The Netherlands, on October 4, 2018. - Dutch intelligence thwarted a Russian cyber attack targeting the global chemical weapons watchdog in April and expelled four Russian agents, the government said. The Russians set up a car full of electronic equipment in the car park of a hotel next to the Organisation for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons in The Hague in a bid to hack its computer system, it said. (Photo by Bart Maat / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT        (Photo credit should read BART MAAT/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: BART MAAT/AFP/Getty Images
(L/R): Head of Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service Onno Eichelsheim, Minister of Defence Ank Bijleveld and British ambassador Peter Wilson attend a press conference of the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) at The Hague, The Netherlands, on October 4, 2018. - Dutch intelligence thwarted a Russian cyber attack targeting the global chemical weapons watchdog in April and expelled four Russian agents, the government said. The Russians set up a car full of electronic equipment in the car park of a hotel next to the Organisation for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons in The Hague in a bid to hack its computer system, it said. (Photo by Bart Maat / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read BART MAAT/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:11
Russia denies western accusations of attacks
putin response russian spy lon orig bks_00003009.jpg
PHOTO: BBC
putin response russian spy lon orig bks_00003009.jpg
Now playing
01:30
Reporter confronts Putin about spy poisoning
The UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats from the country after concluding that the Russian state is responsible for the attempted murder of former Russian agent, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on March 4th.  They will have one week to leave.   "For those who seek to do us harm, my message is simple. You are not welcome here."
PHOTO: Bowtie TV
The UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats from the country after concluding that the Russian state is responsible for the attempted murder of former Russian agent, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on March 4th. They will have one week to leave. "For those who seek to do us harm, my message is simple. You are not welcome here."
Now playing
01:08
Theresa May: UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on July 31, 2017. (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on July 31, 2017. (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:04
Suspected Russian spy worked inside US embassy
 Steven Seagal (R) delivers a press conference with Costa Rican President, Oscar Arias (out of frame), on February 11, 2009, at the presidential residence in San Jose. Seagal and Arias met to talk about the possibility of real estate and film industry investments in Costa Rica. AFP PHOTO/ Mayela LOPEZ (Photo credit should read MAYELA LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: MAYELA LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Steven Seagal (R) delivers a press conference with Costa Rican President, Oscar Arias (out of frame), on February 11, 2009, at the presidential residence in San Jose. Seagal and Arias met to talk about the possibility of real estate and film industry investments in Costa Rica. AFP PHOTO/ Mayela LOPEZ (Photo credit should read MAYELA LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:30
Putin appoints Steven Seagal for diplomat job
russia new nuclear weapons putin chance lkl vpx _00002715.jpg
PHOTO: Russian Defense Ministry
russia new nuclear weapons putin chance lkl vpx _00002715.jpg
Now playing
01:09
Russia releases video of new nuclear weapons
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - JULY 05:  A police officer stands by a cordon in place at Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury after a major incident was declared when a man and woman were exposed to the Novichok nerve agent on July 5, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The couple, named locally as Dawn Sturgess 44, and Charlie Rowley, 45 were taken to Salisbury District Hospital on Saturday and remain there in a critical condition. In March Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were poisoned with the Russian-made Novichok in the town of Salisbury. British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused Russia of being behind the attack on the former spy and his daughter, expelling 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - JULY 05: A police officer stands by a cordon in place at Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury after a major incident was declared when a man and woman were exposed to the Novichok nerve agent on July 5, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The couple, named locally as Dawn Sturgess 44, and Charlie Rowley, 45 were taken to Salisbury District Hospital on Saturday and remain there in a critical condition. In March Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were poisoned with the Russian-made Novichok in the town of Salisbury. British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused Russia of being behind the attack on the former spy and his daughter, expelling 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:02
Russia denies involvement in poisoning attacks
PHOTO: Reuters
Now playing
00:54
May: Nerve agent poisoning deeply disturbing
 A CNN team accessed the Malaysia Airlines flight 17 (MH17) crash site, July 30, 2014 and found evidence that there are still belongings at the site, including pieces of the plane .
PHOTO: Raja Razek/CNN
A CNN team accessed the Malaysia Airlines flight 17 (MH17) crash site, July 30, 2014 and found evidence that there are still belongings at the site, including pieces of the plane .
Now playing
00:49
Investigators: MH17 downed by Russian missile
Yulia Skripal poses for the media during an interview in n London, Wednesday May 23, 2018. Yulia Skripal says recovery has been slow and painful, in first interview since nerve agent poisoning. (Dylan Martinez/Pool via AP)
PHOTO: Dylan Martinez/AP
Yulia Skripal poses for the media during an interview in n London, Wednesday May 23, 2018. Yulia Skripal says recovery has been slow and painful, in first interview since nerve agent poisoning. (Dylan Martinez/Pool via AP)
Now playing
02:34
Daughter of poisoned ex-spy: Lucky to be alive
PHOTO: GOOGLE EARTH
Now playing
01:28
Russia blames Israel for strikes on Syria
PHOTO: CNN PHOTO ILLUSTRATION/GETTY IMAGES
Now playing
02:36
Why Hungary is looking more and more like Russia
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on March 27, 2018. (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on March 27, 2018. (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:26
Russia retaliates, expels 60 US diplomats
Presidential candidate, President Vladimir Putin addresses the crowd during a rally and a concert celebrating the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at Manezhnaya Square in Moscow on March 18, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Alexander Zemlianichenko        (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Presidential candidate, President Vladimir Putin addresses the crowd during a rally and a concert celebrating the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at Manezhnaya Square in Moscow on March 18, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Alexander Zemlianichenko (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:35
Russia votes: How the day unfolded
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a meeting with Russian athletes and team members, who will take part in the upcoming 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on January 31, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Alexey NIKOLSKYALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a meeting with Russian athletes and team members, who will take part in the upcoming 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on January 31, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Alexey NIKOLSKYALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
03:47
How do you become president of Russia?
(CNN Business) —  

The true identities of the men accused of poisoning a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom have reportedly been revealed, but not by sleuthing journalists from The Guardian or The New York Times.

The investigative website Bellingcat this week published what it said was the identity of one of the Russian agents allegedly involved in the nerve agent poisonings in March that left Sergei Skripal and his daughter hospitalized for weeks. Last month, the website unmasked what it said was the identity of the other suspect.

This isn’t the website’s first rodeo with highly sensitive and secretive reporting, much of which involves combing though publicly available data, or databases that can be purchased or have been leaked.

Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat, told CNN Business that the site was not planning to report on the Skripal poisonings but decided to investigate when UK authorities released what they said were the fake identities of the two suspects. Higgins thought he could draw on previous investigations into how the Russian intelligence agency GRU creates fake identities.

“The people we had working on it had looked into previous GRU operations,” Higgins said. “In 2013, there was a Montenegro coup attempt and a GRU asset was arrested and his identity published online. We knew from that that his fake identity used elements of his real identity.”

Higgins and his 10-person staff then teamed up with the Russian website The Insider in an effort to unmask the suspected Russian agents.

The accused men claimed in an interview with Russian state-funded television network RT that they were private citizens on vacation in the United Kingdom. But Bellingcat identified them as high-ranking intelligence officers who had been given the prestigious Hero of the Russian Federation award by President Vladimir Putin.

The Russian government has denied that the men were involved.

The websites used public records and leaked databases in their reporting, but they also deployed more traditional methods of journalism including cold calling people who may know the suspects and going to their hometowns.

“We covered the open source side of it and [The Insider] is doing the on the ground reporting,” Higgins said. “I’m a great believer in combining what we do with open source journalists and the traditional journalism.”

Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat.
PHOTO: PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW/ANP/EPA
Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat.

Higgins first began blogging under the pseudonym Brown Moses in 2012. When he was laid off from his non-profit job, Higgins immersed himself in the blog.

He became known for identifying munitions used in the conflict in Syria by reviewing videos and photos that locals posted online, scanning hundreds of YouTube videos a day. He identified bombs and rockets by the scraps left over, relying on his social media network and publicly available information for help.

Within months he was considered a munitions expert, cited by outlets like NPR and the New York Times.

Shortly before the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airline flight 17 in Ukraine, Higgins launched Bellingcat, a citizen investigative network that pools its resources, while creating guides to teach others to do the same. Soon Higgins had crowdsourced enough funding to focus on the site full time.

“Bellingcat is basically trying to find information that already exists out there on the internet in one way or another, but is either surrounded by so much irrelevant information that we often don’t use it. They both find the information, but more importantly they verify it,” said Centre for the Analysis of Social Media research director Carl Miller, who profiled Higgins in his book, “The Death of the Gods: The New Global Power Grab.”

02:11 - Source: CNN
Novichok suspects: We were just tourists
Russia's state-owned RT network on Thursday aired an interview with the two men suspected by UK authorities of poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin encouraged the suspects to speak to the media. In an interview with RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, two men who identified themselves as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov said they had nothing to do with the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury, England, saying they had reached out to RT to tell their side of the story.
PHOTO: RT
Russia's state-owned RT network on Thursday aired an interview with the two men suspected by UK authorities of poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin encouraged the suspects to speak to the media. In an interview with RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, two men who identified themselves as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov said they had nothing to do with the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury, England, saying they had reached out to RT to tell their side of the story.
Now playing
02:11
Novichok suspects: We were just tourists
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, at a restaurant in Salisbury, UK.
PHOTO: Family photo/Pixel 8000 Ltd
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, at a restaurant in Salisbury, UK.
Now playing
02:15
UK police: Facial tech reveals poison suspects
PHOTO: Reuters
Now playing
00:54
May: Nerve agent poisoning deeply disturbing
Personnel bag samples as they swab railings near a bench covered in a protective tent at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, southern England, on March 16, 2018, as investigations and operations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack in Salisbury on March 4.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said March 16, the alliance did not want a return to Cold War hostilities with Russia while expressing support for Britain's strong stance on the nerve agent attack. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL        (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: BEN STANSALL/AFP/getty images
Personnel bag samples as they swab railings near a bench covered in a protective tent at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, southern England, on March 16, 2018, as investigations and operations continue in connection with the major incident sparked after a man and a woman were apparently poisoned in a nerve agent attack in Salisbury on March 4. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said March 16, the alliance did not want a return to Cold War hostilities with Russia while expressing support for Britain's strong stance on the nerve agent attack. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:48
Source: Kremlin likely approved poisioning
PHOTO: SAUL LOEB/ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
00:50
Trump expels 60 Russian diplomats over UK attack
KUWAIT CITY, KUWAIT - DECEMBER 13: Czech soldiers in chemical protection suits take part in a chemical attack response drill conducted at the U.S. Embassy by civil defense authorities and troops from the United States, Germany, and Czech Republic December 13, 2002 in Kuwait City, Kuwait. The exercise, dubbed 'Event Horizon,' was staged to test the coordinated emergency response to a mock attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait by terrorists using deadly sarin nerve gas.
PHOTO: Scott Nelson/Getty Images
KUWAIT CITY, KUWAIT - DECEMBER 13: Czech soldiers in chemical protection suits take part in a chemical attack response drill conducted at the U.S. Embassy by civil defense authorities and troops from the United States, Germany, and Czech Republic December 13, 2002 in Kuwait City, Kuwait. The exercise, dubbed 'Event Horizon,' was staged to test the coordinated emergency response to a mock attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait by terrorists using deadly sarin nerve gas.
Now playing
01:34
What are nerve agents like Novichok and how do they kill?
UK nerve agent attack1
PHOTO: CNN
UK nerve agent attack1
Now playing
02:09
Where and when did nerve agent attack happen?
putin response russian spy lon orig bks_00003009.jpg
PHOTO: BBC
putin response russian spy lon orig bks_00003009.jpg
Now playing
01:30
Reporter confronts Putin about spy poisoning
boris karpichkov intv
PHOTO: CNN
boris karpichkov intv
Now playing
03:57
Fmr. KGB agent told something bad would happen
US President Donald Trump (R) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk as they make their way to take the "family photo" during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017.
World leaders and senior business figures are gathering in the Vietnamese city of Danang this week for the annual 21-member APEC summit. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JORGE SILVA        (Photo credit should read JORGE SILVA/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: JORGE SILVA/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump (R) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk as they make their way to take the "family photo" during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. World leaders and senior business figures are gathering in the Vietnamese city of Danang this week for the annual 21-member APEC summit. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JORGE SILVA (Photo credit should read JORGE SILVA/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:53
Russia accuses US of nerve agent attack
Russia's track record of poisoning its enemies
PHOTO: The Times
Russia's track record of poisoning its enemies
Now playing
02:56
Not the first time Russia linked to poisoning
Now playing
02:14
Haley: Russia responsible for UK poisoning
Trump lawn
PHOTO: CNN
Trump lawn
Now playing
00:52
Trump: We'll condemn Russia if they poisoned ex-spy
PHOTO: CNNI
Now playing
01:01
May: Russia likely behind nerve agent attack
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 07:  A police tent is seen behind a cordon outside The Maltings shopping centre where a man and a woman were found critically ill on a bench on March 4 and taken to hospital sparking a major incident, on March 7, 2018 in Wiltshire, England. Sergei Skripal, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010, and his daughter remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'.  (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 07: A police tent is seen behind a cordon outside The Maltings shopping centre where a man and a woman were found critically ill on a benc