Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) refers to the collection and analysis of data from publicly available sources to produce actionable intelligence. It involves gathering information from a wide range of sources, including public government data, professional and academic publications, commercial data, and grey literature. OSINT is most commonly used in national security, law enforcement, and business intelligence functions.
One key takeaway is that open source intelligence is not limited to what can be found using traditional search engines like Google. While the surface web is an important component, OSINT can also involve gathering information from covert sources and publicly available information (PAI). However, it’s important to note that anything that can be found using OSINT techniques by security professionals can also be accessed and exploited by threat actors.
To effectively utilize OSINT, it is crucial to develop a clear strategy and framework for gathering and analyzing information. Simply looking for anything that could be interesting or useful will lead to information overload and potential burnout. Instead, security professionals need to focus their efforts and use specific tools and techniques to extract meaningful intelligence from the collected data.
OSINT is widely used and popular among professionals in the security industry due to its accessibility and affordability. Unlike other subtypes of threat intelligence, such as human intelligence, signals intelligence, and geospatial intelligence, which may require specialized resources and significant investments, OSINT primarily relies on publicly available information.
An important distinction between information and intelligence must be made. While information refers to raw data collected from open sources, intelligence is the meaningful analysis of that data in response to specific intelligence questions. It involves critical thinking and evaluating the data to provide actionable intelligence that supports investigations or decision-making processes.
OSINT is used by various individuals for different purposes. Everyday individuals may use open-source information to conduct credibility checks, research individuals they meet online, or gather information before making a purchase. However, OSINT is also utilized by security experts, national intelligence agencies, and cybercriminals. Security professionals aim to discover publicly available information related to their organizations that may be exploited by attackers, allowing them to take proactive measures to prevent potential attacks.
The collection of open-source intelligence can be achieved through various methods. Social media intelligence involves monitoring and observing individuals’ online social profile activity. Information matching and verification can be obtained from data broker services. Overall, OSINT leverages advanced technology to scan public networks, gather data from social media platforms, and access the deep web.
The history of OSINT dates back to the military and intelligence community, where the term was used to describe intelligence activities that gathered strategically important publicly available information. In the espionage era of the 80s, OSINT gained prominence as an additional method of gathering intelligence alongside human sources and electronic signals. With the advent of the internet, social media, and digital services, OSINT has become even more important and prevalent in today’s information age.
In summary, Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) involves the collection and analysis of data from publicly available sources to produce actionable intelligence. It is widely used in national security, law enforcement, and business intelligence functions. OSINT is not limited to what can be found using conventional search engines but extends to gathering information from covert sources and publicly available information. Having a clear strategy and framework in place is essential to effectively utilize OSINT and extract meaningful intelligence from the collected data.