What is Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) ?
OSINT is a term that refers to a framework of processes, tools and techniques for collecting data from open or publicly available resources. OSINT includes information gathered from the Internet, mass media, journals and research, photos and geospatial information. OSINT does not require its exponents to hack into systems or use private credentials to access data. Viewing someone’s public profile on social media is OSINT, using their login details to dig into their private information is not!
OSINT is low risk, cheap and highly effective, as corporate intelligence consultant Cameron Colquhoun has written in an article on the history of OSINT. As Colquhoun suggests, OSINT fell apart after World War 2, with intelligence agencies focusing more on HUMINT – human intelligence or spying, and SIGINT- signals and electronic intelligence. But with the rise of the Internet, social media and online tools, OSINT is now more relevant than ever!
Social media: although online media and search engines make OSINT quicker and easier, social media has been the most effective medium for gathering information on individuals with the intent of defrauding them or stealing their identities. If a person is in scope, looking at their social media pages for 15 minutes will tell them more about him/her than one hour of OSINT will! Hackers, pen testers and intelligence agencies view profiles on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn as fair game for OSINT.
Government: an important source of OSINT is government data. For example, the public bodies periodically publish census data on the internet that can be used for various personal and commercial purposes. Various kinds of data around infrastructure, politics, development etc. is available through open source.
Publications: academic publications are an insightful source of data. Various schools and universities have research bodies that work on publications in a variety of fields that can be used by individuals and firms as a credible source during their data collection process.
Commercial: commercial data that is available through annual reports, brand documents, business decks etc. are also a good source of information related to the company’s respective field or business sector.
Establishing credibility on OSINT data
Fake news, wicked rumors, fabricated reviews, generated images and videos are spread at an alarming rate nowadays. This makes the job of manually assessing data veracity for decision making purposes a formidable task. Hence, automatic, i.e., computerized methods and tools capable of processing and assessing large amounts of data are needed. For example, a considerable amount of misinformation was spread about COVID-19, which in turn affected public opinion and created mass panic. Special teams were then formed to address this fake data and take control of the situation.
Why this is needed
In July 2014, a Malaysian airlines enroute to Kuala Lumpur, crashed some 50 kilometres from the Ukrainian-Russian border. All 298 passengers and crew onboard lost their lives. Separatists from Donetsh claimed to have shot down a Ukrainian transport aircraft, which they later denied. The Ukrainian authorities blamed the Separatists for downing the airliner. The country’s President called it an act of terror!
Several independent and official investigations followed, one of the most comprehensive one conducted by the Bellingcat journalism group. Bellingcat, along with other media organizations used OSINT techniques to build a timeline of the incident, and to expose Russian claims and counterclaims as fabrications.
Hence, we see how important it is to establish factual OSINT data.
GDA’s team of specialists collect and analyze data from publicly available sources to provide clients with the best insights needed to identify potential risks and make smart decisions for their businesses. Contact Globe Detective Agency’s specialised team today.