Jun 25, 2023 By Priyanka Tomar Back

The Empowerment of Open Source Intelligence

In today’s time responsibilities of cyber security professionals are more complex therefore it is crucial to recognize and understand the evolving landscape of emerging cyber threats. To stay ahead, our cyber security strategy must encompass diverse range of proactive and reactive intelligence collection techniques.

Vast pool of publicly available information (PAI) generated daily by consumers, hackers, newsmakers and bloggers is of great value. People and organizations are communicating 24X7 through multiple online platforms. They are engaged in variety of virtual activities such as shopping, travel planning, data management etc. Wherever people are involved in financial activities there are high chances of malicious and fraudulent activities because threat actors target these platforms. Therefore, Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) demand increases.

Now let’s understand what is Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)

It is the systematic collection of publicly available information and legally accessible data sources such as social media platforms, blogs, websites and dark web also. We can summarize OSINT as follows:

  • Information exists publicly.
  • Data is collected from multiple open sources only.
  • Collection data/information is analysed to derive intelligence.

Numerous industries and professionals rely on open sources to uncover potential threats in the work place and to safeguard their executives, prevent losses, manage assets and even they use the OSINT for effective marketing strategies.

OSINT covers Finished Intelligence also. Lets understand what is Finished Intelligence: It is also known as “cooked data”, means raw information that has undergone through processing stage to get contextual meaning and is now actionable. Collection, processing and analysis of raw data serve as crucial foundation steps within the threat intelligence lifecycle.

In other words, raw data remains unchanged as it was originally, encompassing various forms such as network traffic data logs, dark web discussions and public social media posts. While Finished Intelligence takes the form of a summarised report that provides context derived from relevant raw data points and offers suggested security responses.

With finished intelligence services, organizations can bypass the time-consuming and skill-intensive steps of collecting and analysing raw data. These steps are instead supported by automation, machine learning capabilities, and/or third-party analyst teams.

The primary objective of Finished Intelligence is to streamline the process, enabling organizations to respond swiftly to active security threats while minimizing the time and resources spent on gathering and contextualising large volumes of raw data. As a result, clients receive finished intelligence reports that can be immediately acted upon. While it may entail a higher cost, finished intelligence solutions prove advantageous for private sector organizations seeking a comprehensive security solution.

What are the capabilities of OSINT tools?

OSINT tools offer a wide range of functionalities to leverage data from public sources. These OSINT tools can effectively identify and separate entities within a dataset through parsing, ensuring organized display of these entities by category to extract meaningful insights while avoiding redundancies through normalization. Additionally, OSINT tools enable indexing of raw data, facilitating quick and easy search and filtering for relevancy.

While access to publicly available online data is often free, the true value lies in the ability to analyze and extract meaningful information from it. For organizations utilizing OSINT for security and intelligence purposes, the swift and efficient detection of key information is crucial. This is where the utilization of robust OSINT tools becomes essential.

The overwhelming volume of online data makes manual sifting a daunting task. Moreover, the ever-evolving tactics employed by online threat actors make it increasingly challenging to identify vulnerabilities that organizations may face. However, when open-source data is gathered, enriched, and effectively monitored, it becomes an invaluable resource for predicting, analyzing, and reviewing incidents at every stage of their occurrence. The use of powerful OSINT tools serves as a starting point in navigating this vast digital landscape and making the most of available information.

Where to Find Publicly Available Information

The search for publicly available information depends on the specific information you are seeking. While conducting a Google search serves as a basic form of OSINT, when it comes to ensuring the safety and security of individuals, places, or assets, a comprehensive approach involves exploring multiple sources. Since criminal activities are often concealed, relying solely on surface web searches is unlikely to lead to their discovery.

OSINT tools can assist in addressing various threats, such as:

  • Hacking
  • Information leaks
  • Extremist activity
  • Geopolitical threats
  • Fraud
  • Violent attacks
  • Disinformation campaigns

These tools are also valuable for managing internal processes, including:

  • Brand protection
  • Workplace and facilities safety issues
  • Real-time event monitoring
  • Executive protection and force protection
  • Natural disasters and incident response

For enterprises operating in the digital age, digital transformation brings numerous benefits, but it also introduces new opportunities for compromise. Industries such as finance, retail, and transportation, which are frequently targeted by cyber threats, are especially affected. OSINT tools support enterprise security teams in identifying and responding to risks such as data breaches, phishing, malware attacks, and cyber-enabled threats like money laundering or workplace harassment.

OSINT tools also play a crucial role in national security initiatives, including counter-terrorism efforts, addressing misinformation campaigns, cybersecurity and crisis management etc. By monitoring online spaces, governments can understand extremist activities, track disinformation campaigns, combat cyber threats, and ensure the safety of critical infrastructure and citizens during crises.

To effectively address the challenge of data overload, OSINT platforms must improve data coverage, leverage machine learning capabilities, and offer intuitive and user-friendly interfaces. Various types of OSINT tools exist, including social media monitoring platforms, deep and dark web monitoring systems, email breach checkers, Twitter monitoring tools, internet archives like the Wayback Machine, and link analysis tools like Maltego. Combining multiple tools is often the best approach to achieve comprehensive OSINT coverage based on specific organizational needs.