What is OSINT? (Open Source Intelligence)

What is OSINT? The complete guide

Open Source Intelligence, known by its acronym OSINT, is a fundamental pillar in the field of information gathering and analysis. In this article, we'll explain the basics of OSINT, including what it covers, its legality, and its different applications.

What is OSINT?

OSINT or Open Source Intelligence is a type of intelligence that uses open-source information to gather and analyze relevant intelligence. It encompasses a variety of methods and tools for revealing information.

Is OSINT legal?

OSINT complies with the law when it draws its information from publicly accessible sources. It's about finding trustworthy sources in the vast amount of public information, without needing to access private data. OSINT operates on the principle of free access to public information regulation.

The difference between public and closed sources

It is crucial to understand the distinction between public and closed sources in OSINT:

Public sources: This is information that is freely accessible and available to the public. You do not need any special permission to consult it. However, it is important to respect privacy and copyright policies when using these sources.

Closed sources: These are information sources with restricted access to information, unlike public sources which allow unlimited access. Access may require legal authorization. OSINT focuses mainly on public sources.

Why OSINT is useful?

Searching for open source information has become an essential skill in the digital age. Whether you're an individual or a professional, mastering OSINT can bring you many benefits. It gives you access to a wealth of public information, enabling you to better understand a subject or a person.

It contributes to personal security. It makes you aware of your online presence and helps you delete your information.

Who uses OSINT?

A wide range of players in the fields of IT security, cybercrime, espionage, and hacking use OSINT. They all have their own reasons for using it, and here is a non-exhaustive list:

Governments and military organizations: OSINT is a useful tool for predicting geopolitical events. It can be used to examine satellite photos or military maneuvers.

It is also helpful in gathering information on upcoming political changes. Additionally, it aids in gathering information on cyberattacks by hackers. Lastly, it is effective in fighting against false information.

Police and intelligence agencies: They use OSINT to investigate crimes, track down suspects, counterterrorism, conduct counter-intelligence and assess threats to national security.

Companies: They use competitive intelligence to gather data on social networks about a popular product or service and user issues. It also enables them to adapt their marketing strategy, recruit employees and assess their online reputation.

Journalists and media: They use OSINT for fact-checking, sourcing, event coverage and investigation.

Medical services and humanitarian NGOs: In an emergency, OSINT is essential for a rapid, coordinated response. If a natural disaster such as an earthquake or tsunami affects a region. Organizations can use OSINT to monitor social networks, news reports, and official communications for tracking and coordinating relief efforts. Analyzing data in real-time helps them react fast, make informed choices, and give important information to those affected.

Individuals: Many people use OSINT without realizing it. They use it to search for information about unknown phone numbers. They also utilize it to gain knowledge about others on internet. Additionally, they use it to keep track of their own online presence.

Many people in today's society use OSINT on a daily basis, knowingly or unknowingly. Only the means and methods differ.

The different OSINT techniques

OSINT is a term that encompasses a number of different practices. Each of these practices has its own collection and analyzing methods, as well as specific areas of application. Here are just a few examples:

OSINT (Open Source Intelligence): Information gathered from open and public sources, such as the media, social networks, online publications, etc.

HUMINT (Human Intelligence): Intelligence obtained from human sources, through interviews, debriefings, or other interactions with individuals.

SIGINT (Signal Intelligence): Gathering and studying information from electronic signals or communications, like intercepted radio or transmitted data.

IMINT (Imagery Intelligence): Intelligence obtained from images and visual data, often collected by satellites, drones or other aerial means.

MASINT (Measurement and Signature Intelligence): Collection and authentication of physical data, such as electromagnetic, acoustic and thermal signatures.

GEOINT (Geospatial Intelligence): Use of geographic data to obtain information related to specific locations.

CYBINT (Cyber Intelligence): Intelligence gathering on cybersecurity, including computer threats, vulnerabilities, current attacks, intrusions, cybercriminals, etc.

TECHINT (Technical Intelligence): Obtaining intelligence from the analysis of technologies, materials and equipment.

FININT (Financial Intelligence): Gathering information related to financial transactions, capital flows and economic activities.

SOCMINT (Social Media Intelligence): Gathering information from social media, by analyzing activities and content shared by users.

OSINT is a broad field of investigation with many techniques for gathering and analyzing intelligence. Each of these practices makes a valuable contribution to the understanding and evaluation of available data. This diversity of approaches makes it possible to tackle a multitude of scenarios. By combining these methods, you can create a detailed picture of complex situations, providing different research perspectives for your investigations.

different osint disciplines

OSINT in a nutshell

Open Source Intelligence is a critical component of information gathering and analysis. It involves collecting and analyzing open-source information from publicly accessible sources, ensuring compliance with legal regulations. OSINT primarily focuses on public sources, distinguishing it from closed sources that require special permits.

Mastering OSINT has many advantages, like accessing lots of information, improving personal security, and adapting strategies based on gathered insights. Its applications span across various sectors, including government agencies, law enforcement, businesses, media, and organizations.

OSINT encompasses a range of techniques, each with specific collection and analysis methods. These include HUMINT, SIGINT, IMINT, MASINT, GEOINT, CYBINT, TECHINT, FININT, and SOCMINT. The diverse array of approaches enables comprehensive investigation and evaluation of available data, providing multiple research perspectives for complex situations. In general, OSINT is an essential instrument, used by a broad spectrum of professionals and individuals alike.