What is Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)?

Typical OSINT sources

It is characteristic of OSINT sources that the information is freely available and publicly accessible. The sources can be online or offline. Typical OSINT sources are:

  • Print media such as newspapers, magazines or books
  • academic publications
  • Photographs and videos
  • Maps
  • Forums, blogs, social media sites, wikis, websites, and other Internet sources

Possible uses of OSINT

Open source intelligence offers a wide range of possible uses and is not only used by government organizations such as intelligence services or police authorities. Private companies and other organizations also use OSINT for a variety of purposes. For example, Open Source Intelligence can be used for:

  • Hacking
  • Social engineering
  • Penetration test
  • Security analysis
  • Industrial espionage
  • journalism
  • marketing

Benefits of Open Source Intelligence

Compared to other types of information gathering and intelligence gathering, Open Source Intelligence offers several advantages. Thanks to digitization and the large amount of information available on the public Internet, the costs of obtaining information are low. Many activities in this environment can be automated using tools. Compared to, for example, spies in a hostile country, the persons charged with obtaining information are exposed to a lower risk. Since the information is accessed via public infrastructures and technologies, the risk of discovering the information procurer is low.

Internet tools for open source intelligence

In the case of obtaining information via the public Internet, numerous supporting tools are available. There are both free tools such as search engines and commercial tools such as Maltego to collect and analyze the information. These tools are able to extract information from various digital formats such as audio and video files, text, images or program code. Typical functions of the OSINT tools are:

  • automated query of web servers taking into account certain search terms
  • automatic search of metadata
  • automatic search in person directories
  • automated image search and analysis
  • automated search for geographic information

Top OSINT Tools for Beginners

The exponential growth of content creation following the democratization of digital assets has made intelligence gathering more complex. If you want to gain an edge in intelligence gathering for predictive or reactive purposes you need an OSINT tool. But you need to be cautious while looking for OSINT tools as information overload, particularly related to social media intelligence (SOCMINT) data, could be very challenging to manage in an era when speed is the key. Here are some of the best OSINT tools for beginners to help you gather, refine, and use the information for the desired purpose:

Conclusion

Whatever is your profession or business, your success depends heavily on information sourcing, processing, filtering, and of course presentation. The need for information is unquestionable, but one finds it extremely challenging to engage high-quality human resources to manually gather and process information, as it used to be during the pre-internet era. The modern intelligence gathering isn’t about the availability of information, but the processing and presenting them in a usable format. The need of gathering information from publicly available sources without breaching privacy and security regulations gave birth to OSINT. Whatever is your requirement, be it for investigative journalism, cyber-security, law enforcement, or business intelligence, OSINT helps you look beyond simple Google search and dive deeper to gather, process, and present information for the defined purposes and make your intelligence gathering task much simpler and easier.

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Andrey Plat

Andrey Plat

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Blockchain projects, promotion and development. Open source intelligence (OSINT). Non-standard tasks, with non-standard execution.