OSINT: Open Source Intelligence
Open source intelligence (OSINT), is a term used in the intelligence, military and law enforcement communities to describe the process of gathering information from publicly available sources.
This can include anything from social media platforms, news articles, blogs, user generated content, message boards, satellite imagery and much more.
OSINT can be used to gather both tactical and strategic information, making it an invaluable tool for any intelligence operation. While the process of gathering this information may seem simple, there are a number of factors that must be taken into account in order to ensure accuracy and avoid detection.
Although used by covert operatives and spies to obtain information about individuals or organizations and the CIA to gather intelligence on foreign targets, OSINT can be just as useful and effective for “normal” individuals and groups in their endeavors.
What is OSINT?
Open source intelligence (OSINT) is simply defined as the collection and analysis of information that is publicly available. This can include everything from social media posts and news articles to government documents and data sets. Because OSINT is derived from public sources, it can be used by anyone — businesses, individuals, law enforcement, etc.
The main advantage of OSINT is that it’s relatively low cost and low risk. Collecting OSINT doesn’t require special tools, advanced skills or authorization, and the sources are easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection. OSINT can also be used to supplement other intelligence gathering methods, such as human intelligence (HUMINT) or signal intelligence (SIGINT).
How is OSINT Used?
Many businesses use OSINT for competitive intelligence gathering. This helps them keep tabs on what their competitors are doing so they can adjust their own strategies accordingly. For example, if a competitor is launching a new product, a business can use OSINT to track its progress and prepare for its release.
OSINT can also be used for due diligence purposes. This might involve checking out a potential business partner or investor before entering into a deal with them. Doing a bit of research upfront can help you avoid getting involved with someone who might not be trustworthy.
It’s also used for investigations — both criminal and cyber. Police detectives use OSINT all the time to piece together evidence in criminal cases, locate missing persons and track down fugitives. Non law enforcement security professionals use it to track down malicious actors online.
Perhaps most importantly, intelligence agencies like the CIA and MI6 relies heavily on OSINT almost or as much as their traditional more clandestine methods of intelligence gathering. Despite it being from publicly available sources, the content can be extremely useful.
How is OSINT Collected?
OSINT collection can be performed manually or through the use of automated tools. Manual OSINT collection requires human effort to find and collect data from public sources. This can be time-consuming, but it offers the advantage of being able to verify the accuracy and quality of the data collected.
Automated OSINT tools, on the other hand, use computer algorithms to scour the internet for data. This can be faster and more efficient, but it may also result in lower-quality data.
Intelligence is a powerful tool that can be used to inform and improve decision-making. Intelligence in the context of OSINT refers specifically to extraction from public data, which allows you achieve insights for your self, organization or country’s needs.