OSINT is not media monitoring, data mining, cognitive computing, or deep web crawling. These are all components of OSINT.
- So, what is OSINT and why use it in business? Simply put, OSINT is the process of providing actionable insights in a timely fashion based on publicly available information. OSINT for business is the art of providing guidance for busy executives suffering from information overload. Put more bluntly - find the information your client wants fast, then present it in a straightforward manner.
Providing Actionable Insights
The purpose of OSINT is to provide the client with a decision-making advantage – to provide insights that when acted upon will have an impact on the client’s position against industry peers, in terms of protection, advancement, risks, and opportunities. A good OSINT product is a structured assessment of fact-based findings that correspond to client requirements and can be used to make important business decisions. The quality of the product can consequently only be measured against its relevance for the client’s business performance, not the number of charts or the fancy cover page.
Unbiased Lay of the Land
It should be stressed that the purpose is not to provide clients with unprocessed information or large data sets, nor to impress them by presenting “exclusive” information. Clients are already overburdened by massive amounts of information and the last thing they want is more incomprehensible data. They pay other people so that they can focus on their core business activities. And they also want someone from the outside to look at their business operations, risks, counter party relations, etc. to get an unbiased lay of the land.
Process and Product
OSINT is the process of finding, structuring, and analyzing information from publicly available sources (offline and online) and turning that information into accurate, digestible, and actionable assessments for decision-makers. OSINT is consequently both a process and a product, and the two cannot easily be separated from each other. Locating relevant information is one thing, presenting what you have found is another.
OSINT professionals work step by step by identifying where they might find the data they need, structure their findings, and present well-researched assessments using a top-down approach. They use tools but are not relying on a single method or technology.
Kill Your Darlings and Less is More
The process starts by examining the client requirements. Second, we make sure we grasp the wider context, considering all relevant linguistic, cultural, political, and other dimensions. Then we start looking for relevant data and establish facts, validating as we go to avoid false positives, fake news, and other pitfalls.
Investigative findings are then presented for immediate consumption – i.e. to-the-point executive summaries with no need for additional processing. To reach this level of clarity, we must review each other’s work, kill our darlings, and consider different formats. Use graphs and maps but always put yourself in the client’s shoes and keep in mind that less is more.