Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), when carried out properly, is a client-driven process of finding, analyzing and presenting actionable intelligence based on publicly available sources. The secret to leveraging the full potential of OSINT is that there is no secret. There is no single platform, method or theory that you can rely upon to become a master of your trade.
OSINT as a tradecraft is therefore more than the individual databases, news aggregators or other tools you might use. The key to unleashing the full potential of dispersed information hidden in a variety of open sources is to apply a holistic and multi-pronged approach. Use your imagination, trust your instincts and experiment with different tools you come across. Go offline and remember that people are sources.
OSINT is sometimes referred to as any activity involving gaining access to information in open sources, which covers pretty much what most people do every day (reading a newspaper or listening to your favorite podcast, for example). I argue that OSINT is much more than the rather mindless task of collecting data. OSINT, like other intelligence disciplines if they are properly implemented and integrated, could be dubbed “INTINT”– i. e. “Intellectual Intelligence” – where lateral thinking, creative skills and contextual awareness are more important than the ability to navigate complex do-it-all-platforms.
Another key feature is the ability to transform data into information that clients can use in their decision-making process without having to waste time on interpretation. Which also means that you must know what your client wants and present your findings in a digestible format – the importance of being Client-driven cannot be overstated. To unleash the power of OSINT you will have to review how you work (your process) and what you deliver (your product).
Apart from being client-driven, any practitioners aiming at honing their OSINT skills will need to master the three S’s – Sources, Structure and Summary. This might sound easy enough but hidden within are the challenging tasks of validating sources, maintaining an audit trail, facing your own biases, killing your darlings, etc. Anybody will appreciate the complexity of this in an age of fake news, increasing government interference and information overload, hence the intellectual and introspective nature of the OSINT tradecraft. Which also brings us to the real value of OSINT for corporate and other clients in this day and age – gaining a decision-making advantage by leveraging high-quality, fact-based information provided by a trusted partner.
And finally, a cautionary piece of advice to all OSINT practitioners out there - exploit all available resources to the full, but keep in mind that the most powerful tool at your disposal is your brain. here to edit.