What is Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT)?

Blog / Are We All Spies?

Open-source intelligence, shortly Osint, means a collection of data from publicly available, free, and open-source tools producing information. Osint tools aim to gather more information about a targeted business or individuals. Whereas any internet user can do simply Osint activities, a sophisticated Osint system can compare, contrast, and combine data about specific subjects and provide more credible results.


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As software, It refers to tools that help you to learn more about your target than you can learn through search engines. However, a web browser or search engine can be an Osint tool for simple investigations.

These tools generally gather data from the following sources;

  • Published data, open for free
  • Data available with a subscription
  • Data from media channels and broadcasts
  • Information shared by governmental sources
  • Information shared by search engines


Key Takeaways

There are two basic kinds of Osint systems. First is the Passive Osint tool, which depends on using existing data to find more information about that topic, person, or company. This is a less risky way and generally does not create even ethical problems because passive Osint agents use publicly available information that can be reached easily by anybody.

The second one is the Active Osint which does not refer to specific software. This kind of data collection benefits from different tools like social media channels. A connection with a fake account can help gather incredible private personal information about someone. Also, it includes more complex techniques like using open ports or scanning servers.


Advantages of Osint

This is called as information age we are living in. Different areas use Osint software for their businesses in this age, like the legal industry, media, journalists, private investigators, human resources, marketing, and sales departments. Additionally, states use it for critical national security issues such as military, terrorist activities, and special investigations. It helps them to investigate people and know deeply about situations. Today, many governments benefit from open-source information. CIA and some other intelligence agencies have separate Osint teams. Also, cybersecurity is one of the fields that use Osint intensively in both governmental organizations and the private sector. Companies have invested more in Osint systems in recent years because of the increased cyber threats. Thus, the number of Osint tools and firms, especially start-ups, are raised to meet the demand.

There is a significant point that Osint agents must keep in mind that the data gathering by open sources is generally has a variational nature. Besides, these data have some reliability problems because online information about people cannot always reflect the truth about them.

Here are some examples that open-source intelligence can be helpful:

  • Background check for an employee or candidate
  • Analyzing customers and searching for potential ones
  • Onboarding and KYC/CDD procedures
  • Controlling customer or member registration
  • Establishing target audience
  • Checking transactions mediating by your firm
  • Performing credit checks
  • Protecting the supply chain from the effects of crises
  • Market investigation locally and internationally
  • Comparison of competitors
  • SWOT analysis
  • Detection of information leakage
  • Risk assessment and risk management
  • Cost-effective systems
  • Flashing possible future problems

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Osint Tools for Fraud

On the other side of the coin, the same beneficial Osint systems can be used by fraudsters and hackers for financial crimes. Identity theft and synthetic identity frauds are two of the most common examples of fraud using Osint data. Besides individual hazards, Osint can be used for more significant social engineering attacks against corporate companies or governmental bodies, security systems etc. 

However, the same systems are also used against those kinds of attracts. For example, the tools create a whole digital identity of customers with a collection of different personal information. Thus, a fake ID established by a social engineer can be detected by systems.

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Choosing the Right Software

After trending of social media and a rise in open-source data, institutions started to determine their needs for more information and became ready to invest in these kinds of tools. Today, they have many options that provide Osint solutions for companies. These software systems have different specialized fields and features. So, it is crucial to determine companies’ needs first. Here you can find some points to consider when you choose an open-source data tool;

  • In which area the tool specialized in collecting data is? For instance, some are better for analyzing relationships among people, organizations, and institutions. In contrast, others are better for uncovering the actual status or living conditions of people under investigation.
  • How much data does the tool have access to? All sources possibly used by the Osint software are open, but different devices have different capacities regarding information channels. If you do not need complex data variations, a simple Osint system can work for it.
  • Is it a user-friendly system? Since these products generally work with an enormous amount of data, it is possible to see tangled outcomes. But some provide easy-to-read results, use graphs and charts to visualize data, and summarize what they collect for users. These can be valuable for setting strategies and action plans according to knowledge from collecting data.
  • Does the program uncover or unmask the hidden information and relationships? Although internet users try to hide their connections, different channels include different information inevitably. An Osint tool can be capable to discover these connections, whereas some of them just serve as data collection tools.
  • Which program does your institution use, like Windows, Linux, or Mac? The setup process varies according to your company's existing system, and not all tools can work with all systems.
  • Is it possible to fulfill your needs with an in-house team? Not all institutions need sophisticated technologies to meet their requirements. An in-house team and solution may be more cost-effective and tailored-made for your company.
  • Do you need a software system or is a web extension enough for your needs? Like the previous issue, a web extension tool can collect the basic information you need instead a comprehensive system. So, the needs must be determined before deciding on the tool. Although extensions reach limited information, they offer several critical ones such as IP addresses, domains, IOCs, URLs, or wallet addresses. These can be more focused and specified data sets according to your companies’ needs.
  • Several free options meet basic requirements like names, email addresses, or phone numbers. There can be found on GitHub and are available for everyone.


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