Table of Contents
- Introduction to Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)
- Who Engages in Open Source Intelligence Gathering and Analysis?
- Types of Data and Information Considered Open Source
- Benefits of OSINT
- Applications of OSINT
- OSINT Tools for Investigators
- Challenges and Ethical Considerations
Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is a valuable method for gathering and analysing information from publicly accessible sources. It has gained significance in various fields due to the abundance of data available on the Internet. In this article, we will explore the concept of OSINT, its benefits, and its applications in different industries.
Introduction to Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)
OSINT involves collecting and analysing information from publicly available sources to gain valuable insights. Unlike traditional intelligence-gathering methods, OSINT does not require any clandestine effort and is retrieved legally and in compliance with copyright requirements. The collected raw data is then analysed to gain a deeper understanding of a particular subject.
Who Engages in Open Source Intelligence Gathering and Analysis?
While anyone with knowledge of OSINT tools and techniques can engage in the process, it is commonly used by government agencies, large corporations, the military, law enforcement, IT security professionals, private businesses, and private investigators. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) established the Open Source Centre in the USA, which collects, produces, and promotes OSINT.
Types of Data and Information Considered Open Source
Open-source data and information can be found in various places, with most of it accessible online. Some examples include:
- Public records databases like BeenVerified, Spokeo, and Intelius
- Government websites, reports, and documents
- The Internet
- Mass media such as newspapers, TV, radio, magazines, and websites
- Social networks, social media sites, user account profiles, posts, and tags
- Maps and commercial imagery
- Photos, images, and videos
- The dark web
Benefits of OSINT
- Cost-effective: OSINT leverages freely available information, making it a cost-effective approach compared to traditional intelligence-gathering methods that require substantial resources and expertise.
- Timeliness: OSINT allows for near real-time information gathering. With the proliferation of social media and online news platforms, OSINT analysts can quickly monitor and analyze unfolding events as they happen.
- Broad Perspective: By tapping into diverse sources, OSINT provides a broader perspective on a given subject. It enables analysts to access viewpoints, opinions, and data from various individuals and organisations, leading to a more comprehensive understanding of the topic.
- Enhancing Decision-making: OSINT supports evidence-based decision-making by providing timely and relevant information. It enables individuals and organisations to make informed choices, mitigate risks, and identify opportunities based on a comprehensive understanding of the situation.
Applications of OSINT
- Cybersecurity: OSINT plays a crucial role in detecting and preventing cyber threats. Cybersecurity professionals can identify potential vulnerabilities, track hacker activities, and proactively respond to emerging threats by monitoring online forums, social media platforms, and dark web communities.
- Law Enforcement: OSINT has become an invaluable tool for law enforcement agencies. It aids in investigations, intelligence gathering, and combating organised crime. Social media platforms and online forums have been instrumental in identifying suspects, monitoring criminal activities, and preventing potential threats.
- Business Intelligence: OSINT provides businesses with valuable insights into market trends, competitor analysis, and consumer sentiments. By monitoring social media discussions, customer reviews, and industry publications, companies can make data-driven decisions, improve their products or services, and gain a competitive edge.
- Journalism: Journalists increasingly rely on OSINT to support their investigative reporting. It enables them to verify facts, gather background information, and uncover hidden connections. OSINT tools assist journalists in researching stories, uncovering leads, and providing reliable information to the public.
- Academic Research: OSINT is essential to academic research across various disciplines. Researchers can utilise publicly available data and documents to study societal trends, analyze public opinion, and conduct quantitative or qualitative analyses.
OSINT Tools for Investigators
Here is a list of helpful OSINT tools for investigators:
Email Breach Lookup
- Have I Been Pawned?: Check if your email address has been compromised in data breaches.
- BreachAlarm: Monitor various sources for data breaches and check if your email addresses or accounts have been compromised.
- DeHashed: Search for compromised data associated with email addresses, usernames, and domains.
- Hacked-Emails: Provides a database of email addresses and usernames exposed in data breaches.
- Snusbase: A comprehensive database of leaked credentials from data breaches.
- Identity Leak Checker: Check if your email addresses, usernames, or passwords have been exposed to known data breaches.
- Hoaxy: Visualise the spread of articles online to identify fake or incorrect news.
- Media Bugs: Report and correct bugs in the media to identify inaccurate news.
- PolitiFact: Fact-check statements made by journalists, political figures, and others.
- SciCheck: Evaluate false and misleading scientific claims made to influence public policy.
- Snopes: Research urban legends, rumours, myths, and claims made by public figures.
Hacking and Threat Assessment
- Norse: Track and analyze real-time cyber threats using a global threat intelligence network.
- Spyse: Find technical information about internet-based assets, including subdomain finder, reverse IP lookup, port scanner, and DNS lookup.
- OSINT Image Search: Tools for reverse image search and image identification.
Public Records (Property)
- Melissa Data Property Viewer: View property information such as address, owner name, value, and more.
- Emporis Building Search: Search for buildings and find the exact location of a building.
- Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com: Find information on properties, including listings, prices, and more.
OSINT Search Engines
- Google Correlate: Identify search patterns that correlate with real-world trends.
- Million Short: Sort and filter search results to exclude popular sites.
- Shodan: Search for devices on the Internet of Things (IoT) like web servers, webcams, and more.
- TalkWalkerAlerts: Monitor the web, social media, blogs, and forums for specific keywords.
- Facebook Search Tools: Access various search tools for Facebook, including advanced search queries.
OSINT Tool Websites
- IntelTechniques: A comprehensive website with resources, links, and online search forms for OSINT.
- OSINT Combine: Offers various free search tools for TikTok, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, and more.
- Software: Tools like Hunchly and Maltego for evidence collection and analysis.
- Earth Cam: Aggregates the world’s public live-streaming webcams and surveillance cameras.
- Insecam: Provides access to hundreds of surveillance and public web cameras worldwide.
Transportation – Vehicles, Aircraft, Boats
- Flight Radar 24: Track live flight information and view flight paths around the globe.
- Marine Traffic: Track global ship locations and gather information about vessels.
- Nationwide Aircraft Registry: Search the registry of all planes registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
- VINCheck: Verify if a vehicle is reported stolen but not recovered.
- CheckUserNames: Check the availability of usernames on more than 500 social networks.
- Namech_k: Search domain names availability and social media username availability.
- VirusTotal: Scan files or URLs for malware using various virus scanners and URL/domain blacklisting services.
Visual / Clustering Search Engines
- Carrot2.org: Organise search results into topics and visualise them using colour-coded circle diagrams and foamtree diagrams.
- Yippy: Group search results by topic for easier sorting and viewing.
- BuiltWith.com: Analyze the technology profile of a website, including the content management system (CMS), widgets, and plugins used.
Challenges and Ethical Considerations
While OSINT offers numerous benefits, it also presents challenges and ethical considerations. Privacy concerns, the reliability of sources, and information overload are some of the key challenges faced by OSINT analysts. It is crucial to adhere to legal and ethical guidelines when conducting OSINT activities to ensure responsible use of information and respect for privacy rights.