Open Source Intelligence #12

Today, I want to take a look into another approach of allocating resources on the Internet. Originally, I wanted to research methods of investigative journalism but then I found a more data and technology driven section.

OSINT is a term from the US intelligence agencies which describes the usage of publicly available sources, mostly mass-media from the Internet, without gaining access to them by force e.g. through hacking or adjudication. This procedure is cost-effective and has a low-risk for its operators because of the open access of the information.

In the talk “Research like an OSINT Analyst” by Kody Kinzie, he defines this act of research as reconnaissance of a specific target to build a detailed picture and to come up with a plan of action based on the information you find. On the basis of his experience, the most important skills are asking answerable questions, being able to spot patterns in data and be creative in where you are looking for data. To be effective, his goal is to identify “low hanging fruits” to pick the option with the most likely chance of success for the lowest risk and commitment or resources.

The main reason of Open Source Intelligence is to access data that can be found in databases or API’s that won’t be available to you via Google or other search engines. The Internet consists of vast pools of data that can be mined, analyzed and sorted to look for relationships that wouldn’t be immediately obvious to a human researcher. The purpose of Intelligence is gathering raw data to refine them into insight and understanding through answering questions in a specific investigation. 

The Intelligence Cycle
Direction > Collection > Processing > Analysis > Dissemination > Feedback > Repeat

The result of this process is valuable information that is easy to understand, so that the person doesn’t have to dive as deep as you already did. It is not a mere collection of data, intelligence is actionable and leads to a very specific conclusion to the addressed question. In his presentation he is relating to the tool Maltego which is widely used in the military, police and private sector. It enables analysts to gather public information via a GUI and connect results in a graph interface. This way, you can see patterns through link analysis which is a type of visual knowledge discovery.

One of his tips when trying out this kind of research is to be aware of bad or irrelevant data: they make link analysis useless.

And this is commit #12!

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