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What is Open-Source Intelligence & How Can it Be Used for Your Business?

Published on Feb 15 2022

A business goes through hundreds of transactions every day, resulting in full-scale information. However, evaluating and analyzing this immense volume of information requires special technologies and open-source intelligence is one of the finest and reliable options. 

From the cybersecurity point of view, open-source intelligence helps identify;  

  • breached and compromised documents, 
  • personal information, 
  • business records, 
  • domain data, 
  • email, 
  • app or device information, 
  • indexed data, 
  • dark-net resources, and much more. 

All this information helps track potential cyber threats that pose harmful impacts to businesses. 

What Is Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT)? 

Open-source intelligence refers to the information that is legally gatherable from various sources, including public sources and free sources. Practically, OSINT is about information available on the Internet or any other public information (information extracted from online as well as offline sources).  

OSINT includes the data and information available in media, including information sound in videos, images, public conferences and speeches, deep web, dark web, and webinars. 

The term was first established by NATO, which utilizes different data sources to collect the desired information. However, the collected/gathered information goes thorough evaluation and analysis for information extraction.  

In addition to public information, private companies can also utilize OSINT tools and techniques for intelligence purposes, including cyber-attacks, business intelligence, and more. 

How Is Open-Source Intelligence Used? 

OSINT is common among analysts and investigators across different industries, including investigation journalists, law enforcement agencies, cybersecurity analysts, fraud investigators, and threat hunters. That said, open-source intelligence is suitable for various use cases, particularly internet-oriented research. Some of the uses include. 

  • Cybersecurity Operations

Security professionals can use OSINT to identify potential threats and weaknesses in the business network, including vulnerabilities. Open-source intelligence provides a wide range of information and data to help with damage remediation, incident response, business protection, threat intelligence, network foot printing, and penetration testing.  

  • Social Media Investigations

As of January 2022, there are more than 4.4 billion social media users while another billion users will be added to the social media users base by the year 2025. Security investigators can skim through the social media footprint to outline potential threats and map out the network infused by cybercriminals. In fact, it allows them to trace the public’s social media activities, including their geographical location, lifestyle, and potential suspects. 

  • Fraud Investigations & Risk Management

The risk management professionals and fraud investigators can deploy open-source intelligence to manage infringements to IP and identify counterfeit and fraudulent products available on the internet. In addition, they can leverage open-source intelligence to prevent risk exposure and loss incidents while assisting in loss recovery. 

OSINT Techniques 

Contrary to usual belief, OSINT is not about identifying everything, but it revolves around identifying answers to the questions – for this reason, you need questions. 

So, it is important to outline questions that assist in the formulation of strategy and choose the suitable OSINT framework for searching for the key information. For this reason, two common open-source intelligence techniques are used. 

OSINT Techniques  active passive

  • Active OSINT

This data collection method involves direct interaction with the target audience to collect accurate and real-time data. However, it can expose the cyber investigators to higher vulnerability and detection – once the target identifies that they are being watched, they are likely to shut down the data access or trace the investigator source for launching counterattacks. 

  • Passive OSINT

It is a safer technique as it collects data collected from third-party sources and historical data. However, the data might not be completely updated. However, the cyber investigators will remain away from their target, resulting in lower detection risk (looking up the old DNS records is a fine example of passive OSINT technique). 

OSINT Tools 

It is challenging to collect and skim through the information manually, which is why the OSINT experts use different tools to simplify and automate data collection and generate the database and reports. Some of these open-source intelligence tools include; 

  • OSINT Framework – it is a repository of tools for gathering information and can categorize resources into 32 categories, depending on the type of date the cyber investigator is looking for.
  • Search Engines – this is one of the most used tools in open-source intelligence, including Google Dorks, Bing, and Google. These search engines help narrow down the search results to specific IP addresses, websites, file types, and strings.
  • Link Analysis Tools – these tools automate data mining and mapping through visual platforms. With Cipher Trace and Virus Total, data visualization might be possible, whereas link analysis tools help integrate different data sources and merge them on a graph. It also eliminates the need to switch between different tabs.


With the rise of tech, open-source technology’s advent is quite evident. It comes with the benefits of protecting businesses and planning secure business strategies. Not to forget, OSINT is accessible to everyone and helps prioritize the tasks while outlining potential security breaches. However, it can be used for adverse purposes, so stay ahead of the curve! 


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