Open Source Information (OSINT): Way we collect information in the age of no privacy
The culture of sharing drives the internet to become a treasure trove of publicly available information. From how to patch footwear, find food recipes, how to create knick-knacks, order transport, and update the latest news, to locate someone, we are sharing information online – even our personal information – more than ever just like exactly described by William Orville Douglas:
We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from the government.
With easy access and superabundant information, the internet is like two sides of a coin. The information can be collected and used by someone for both negative and positive purposes.
The activity of collecting and correlating publicly available information is called Open Source Intelligence (OSINT). According to the United States Department of Defense, the definition of OSINT is publicly available information that is collected, exploited, and disseminated in a timely manner.
What can OSINT do for us?
OSINT has been there since World War II as an intelligence tool for many national security agencies. OSINT can be practiced for due diligence, investigation, surveillance, and cybersecurity. The existence of the internet amplifies the use of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) while its fundamentals stay the same.
Information sources can be anything ranging from blogs, online forums, YouTube, and Facebook, to government websites. People just need to identify what subject they are looking for and search online through search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing!), social media, or other online platforms.
There is a real case where one of our skip-tracing investigations used information from social media to seize a fraudster. From his social media posts, our team could find out what his habits were, where he was hiding, where he used to spend time as a fugitive, and other personal information. Based on such information, our team successfully found and caught him.
However, certain kinds of information might not be found on surface webs as they are not indexed by ordinary search engines (for example, information related to drug trafficking). To get such information, one needs to access dark website by using special software.
The most challenging parts
The most challenging parts of practicing OSINT are sorting and analyzing information from every relevant source. To get unbiased and relevant information out of superabundant data, one needs to raise many detailed questions about sources and obtained information such as ‘How does the source know this information?’, ‘How recent is the information?’, ‘Can the information be confirmed?’, and other relevant questions. While these parts are time and labor-consuming, without any set of guidance, skill, and experience, one will have no idea how to structure and interpret the information.
Therefore, a person or a company needs a trustworthy third party that has experience, skill and resourceful personnel in practicing OSINT for certain cases of investigation, due diligence, or surveillance.
For more than seventeen years, Integrity as a company engaged in risk mitigation and compliance has been trusted by its clients. We provide business investigation service which comprises audit and fraud investigation, theft investigation, asset tracing, and many more. Should your companies need more detailed information regarding business investigations, do not hesitate to contact us.