What is OSINT?
OSINT stands for Open Source INTelligence, and is the use of publicly available data being collected and analyzed to produce valuable information which can then be converted into actionable intelligence. The concept of OSINT has been around for centuries, but with the rapid development of technology and the increasing interconnectivity of devices, the amount of publicly available data grows daily, and consequently, so does the use of OSINT.
It is often mistakenly assumed that information that is publicly available has little sensitivity or value. This couldn’t be further from the truth. As the amount of information available grows daily, the ability to correlate new information with old paints a more detailed story of what we have already known, or reveals new trends or patterns that were previously unknown. OSINT can be used to trace your family genealogy, uncover criminal rings, or even discover compromised organizations and businesses. I have used OSINT to find deadbeat spouses and parents to serve with custody and divorce papers, discover the source company information being leaked, as well as research potential investment decisions.
Categories of OSINT
As the field of OSINT continues to grow and become more defined, we have also experienced a shift in what it means for something to be private versus public. The concept of what constitutes public availability is debated often, but for this blog, we will define publicly available information as any information that can be obtained without attempting to subvert any sort of access controls. Obscurity does not count as an access control.
Open Source Intelligence can be broken into six different categories:
- Media: Newspapers, magazines, radio, and television.
- Internet: Online publications, blogs, discussion groups and forums, social media, and even blockchains.
- Public Government Data: Public reports, budgets, hearings, directories, conferences, and speeches.
- Professional and Academic Publications: Published journals, conferences, symposia, academic papers, dissertations, these, and websites.
- Commercial Data: Commercial photos, repots, journals, and databases.
- Grey Literature: Technical reports, preprints, patents, working papers, business documents, newsletters.
What OSINT is not
As stated above, OSINT is any information that can be obtained by anyone without having to subvert any sort of access control. The moment access controls are bypassed (without approval authorization) to obtain information, the operation has now become covert or clandestine and is likely crossing legal boundaries. While the results can often be alarming, and people are often times unaware of just how public their information may be, OSINT is a legal activity that anyone can participate in and practice freely. If you have to subvert authentication or inject unauthorized code (even if publicly possible), you are no longer performing OSINT and that is out of scope for this blog.
What is this blog?
This blog is dedicated to the exploration of OSINT techniques and sources. I plan to use this blog to document what I learn and to use as a reference for later. My hopes are that by documenting my ventures, others will gain an increased understanding of privacy (and why it is relevant), as well as teach common techniques for readers to follow along. I do not consider myself and expert, and I am eager to learn from others. I do not intend on sticking to any specific curriculum or agenda. If you have a desire for any sort of OSINT assessment performed against you, your brand, or your business, I am always open to side work.
Where do we go from here?
For now, I look forward to being a part of the Steemit community and searching for similar to content to learn from and to work with. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please leave a comment below! If you have any ideas for future posts, or have a subject you would like to learn more about, please share that below as well.