Open Source Intelligence Techniques

Searching the Internet, we get multiple pages of the results in the search engine. Have you ever thought about what is lying in those dozens and hundreds of pages of results? A significant amount of information! There are many threat intelligence subtypes, but open source intelligence (OSINT) is the most used worldwide. This article will show you various OSINT tools and techniques for its gathering and analyzing that are pervasive and available in the modern market. Let us figure out what OSINT is and how we can get this free information from public sources using appropriate techniques.

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What Is Open Source Intelligence? 

Open source intelligence (ONIST) is collecting and analyzing the information from different public and accessible resources, subsequently for intelligence purposes. There are many information sources, beginning with print newspapers and television, ending with social media, websites, business documents, and everything you can find, no matter online or offline. Paying attention to online sources, we can claim the Internet has the information available for everyone to access. It can be in different forms like text, file, audio, video, etc. 

Everybody knows Google provides many web pages and other resources of information. But not everyone has a clue search engines are not the only source of getting available information. A significant amount of data on the Internet can’t be found using search engines. “Deep web” has a huge mass of websites, files, and databases, that can’t be indexed by the major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others. Despite this, even this “deep web” can be considered open source. 

The Main Categories Of Intelligence Collection Types

OSINT is one of the intelligence collection types. The main categories are human intelligence (HUMINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), imagery intelligence (IMINT), measurement and signatures intelligence (MASINT). 

Why Do We Need Techniques And Tools?

OSINT is useful for both national security and regular companies, and even for people's privacy. Every person who browses or shops online and uses any social media can have an extensive digital footprint. Meanwhile, collecting the available information is the first thing, but the second is making an analysis and intelligence out of them. You can gather the data manually; however, some tools can help collect the data from numerous sites in minutes. Besides, specialists of cybersecurity mine data from different open sources, combine parts and pieces of information and create a target profile. The target can be an organization and services it uses or a person that plays a vital role in the company. Using OSINT, the information will be useful to identify the attack surface and security gaps. Moreover, you can fight and resolve information leaks. Apart from the security, open source intelligence tools and techniques can be used as a helper in investigating market opportunities and possible risks and checking your competitors' activities.

The Main Open Source Intelligence Techniques

Now when we have covered the uses of open source intelligence, it is time to learn some of the techniques for gathering and processing open source information. Besides, it will be useful to view the Cyber Security Checklist - Your Basic Steps to Take to help you keep abreast of getting protected in time and prevent unwanted outcomes. So, you can learn the modern open source intelligence techniques below:


1. First of all, you should have a clear framework and strategy for getting and using open source intelligence. You can find many interesting and useful information on open source intelligence for you. However, a massive volume of available information can overwhelm you. 

Additionally, it would help if you focused on the goals you are trying to achieve. If you strive to identify and resolve your work's weaknesses, you should concentrate your mind on accomplishing these goals.


2. Secondly, manual processes will not be so effective because of the large volume of information. So, you should identify appropriate tools for collecting, processing, and next using open source information.

It is also essential to admit that there is a significant quantity of free and premium tools for finding and analyzing open source information. Some of them are:


  • Metadata search;
  • Code search;
  • Phone number research;
  • Email search and verification;
  • Linking social media accounts;
  • People and identity investigation;
  • Image analysis;
  • Geospatial research and mapping.


Have you ever thought how much data your profiles in social media reveal, taking into account all your connections? For example, file metadata reveals interesting information about the tools used for creating a file and even specifics about an author. Another good example is image metadata, which contains the location where the photo was taken and the whereabouts of the person who posted it. As you see, all tools from the list above can be used for successful collection and analyzing information about open sources. Additionally, you can contact us to get a free consultation of OSINT services, and we will gather intelligence on a person or business online to help you avoid risk and make better decisions.

Passive and Active Collection

There are two categories of collection of open source intelligence. The passive collection includes using threat intelligence platforms to combine different potential threat feeds into one accessible location. Besides, other solutions to the passive collection, such as artificial intelligence or machine learning, are also suitable for an organization's or personal needs. Threat groups like to use botnets to collect necessary information using traffic sniffing or keylogging should be mentioned. Meantime, an active collection consists of numerous techniques of searching for specific information or insights. This type of collection work is used when a passively collected alert found out a potential threat and understanding is required.

In Conclusion 

Open source intelligence can be derived from information and data that is available to the general public. Techniques and tools are designed to help people focus their efforts and concentrate on specific areas. Meantime, while a security professional uses the information for security testing, data protection, and incident handling, a threat actor can gain data to perform phishing attacks. Anyway, information overload is a real concern in the modern online world, even in open source intelligence.



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