In today's data-driven world where information is a precious commodity, open-source intelligence (OSINT) offers a powerful edge, transforming publicly available information into actionable intelligence and uncovering hidden truths.
Imagine the vast expanse of the internet, a boundless repository of knowledge, where every click, every post, and every tweet leaves a digital trail.
This is the domain of OSINT, where skilled investigators extract hidden nuggets of information from seemingly mundane sources like news articles, social media platforms, government websites, and even personal blogs. While OSINT may seem like a simple concept, the ability to effectively gather, analyse, and interpret this vast amount of information requires specialised skills and expertise.
OSINT: The Information Revolution's Unsung Hero
OSINT is the product of open-source data (OSD) that is collected, processed, and analysed before being used to drive decision-making processes in open-source investigations.
OSD refers to publicly available information that can be extracted from a wide range of sources including:
Government data sources
Health and scientific data sources
Corporate data sources in countries where this data is publicly available
Cyber threat intelligence
Deployed across both the private and public sectors, OSINT can be utilised in many types of investigations, ranging from money laundering, fraud, and even counterterrorism.
While OSINT may seem like a recent concept, its roots can be traced back centuries, when military strategists relied on publicly available information to understand their adversaries. Today, OSINT has become an indispensable tool for businesses, law enforcement agencies, cybersecurity professionals, and journalists, offering a plethora of benefits:
Cost-Effectiveness: OSINT is virtually free, and accessible to anyone with an internet connection, democratising access to information and empowering individuals and organisations with unlimited resources.
Diversity of Perspectives: OSINT provides a comprehensive understanding of a given topic by drawing from a vast array of publicly available sources, offering a multitude of viewpoints and perspectives.
Timeliness: OSINT information is readily available and can be analysed quickly, providing timely insights for informed decision-making.
OSINT in the Hands of Adversaries: Unveiling the Threat Landscape
However, OSINT is being used by both attackers and cybersecurity professionals to find ways to exploit critical systems and functions.
Often, attackers and cybersecurity experts must use the same tools to search accessible online spaces for pieces of publicly available information that, when combined, might provide keys to an organisation’s systems.
OSINT plays a crucial role in the reconnaissance phase of cyberattacks. Adversaries gather information about potential targets, such as their organisational structure, financial status, and employee information, helping them to identify lucrative targets and prioritise their attacks.
Utilising OSINT to uncover vulnerabilities in target systems and networks, attackers scan publicly accessible sources, such as company websites, job postings, and social media platforms, to identify potential security weaknesses. Furthermore, these malicious actors are using OSINT to identify potential detection methods and cover their tracks. They study the techniques and tools used by cybersecurity professionals and law enforcement agencies to develop evasive techniques and anti-forensics measures.
A powerful tool in social engineering and phishing attacks, adversaries gather personal information about individuals within target organisations, including their interests, hobbies, and professional affiliations. They use this information to create convincing personalised phishing emails or social media messages, increasing the likelihood of success.
Examples of adversaries using OSINT:
REvil Ransomware Gang used publicly available data to target Kaseya.
REvil Ransomware Group used OSINT to Target JBS Foods.
Conti Ransomware Group used OSINT to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure systems.
Backed by threat actors from Conti, the Royal Ransomware Group used OSINT techniques to target healthcare organisations.
Leveraging OSINT to Level the Playing Field: Countering Adversaries with Open-Source Intelligence
Just as adversaries are leveraging OSINT to gain an edge, defenders can also harness the power of OSINT to level the playing field.
By proactively gathering and analysing publicly available information, defenders can gain valuable insights into potential threats, identify vulnerabilities, and prepare effective defences. OSINT can enable companies to understand their attack surface and exposed assets, deepening their knowledge of cybersecurity trends, new threats, and mitigation tactics.
The diversity of OSINT uses and techniques is as broad as the information landscape itself:
Business Intelligence: Businesses use OSINT to gain insights into their competitors, market trends, and customer behaviour, enabling them to make strategic decisions and gain a competitive edge.
Cybersecurity Threat Assessment: Cybersecurity professionals employ OSINT to identify potential threats, track cybercriminals, and assess vulnerabilities, safeguarding critical infrastructure and protecting sensitive data.
Law Enforcement Investigations: Law enforcement agencies utilise OSINT to investigate crimes, identify suspects, track missing persons, and gather evidence, leading to swifter resolutions and improved public safety.
Journalistic Investigations: Journalists rely on OSINT to verify information, gather evidence, and uncover stories, empowering them to inform the public and hold those in power accountable.
OSINT has proven to be a valuable tool in identifying the perpetrators of cyberattacks. By gathering and analysing publicly available information, investigators and journalists have been able to uncover crucial clues that have led to the identification and prosecution of cybercriminals. As the volume and complexity of data continue to grow, OSINT will play an even more critical role in navigating the ever-changing information landscape.
When OSINT has been used to identify perpetrators:
OSINT played a crucial role in uncovering the Panama Papers, a massive leak of financial documents that exposed offshore tax havens and financial wrongdoing.
Journalists used OSINT investigation techniques and social media posts to track down a group of art thieves who stole valuable paintings from a museum.
OSINT analysis helped identify the perpetrators of cyberattacks disrupting critical infrastructure systems.
OSINT investigations are exposing human rights violations in war crimes against Ukraine.
These examples demonstrate the growing importance of OSINT in the field of cybersecurity. As cyberattacks become more complex and sophisticated, OSINT is becoming an indispensable tool for identifying perpetrators and bringing them to justice, enabling informed decision-making, uncovering hidden truths, and safeguarding our digital world. By harnessing the power of OSINT, individuals and organisations can navigate the vast ocean of information, extracting valuable insights and making a positive impact on society.
Empowering Individuals with OSINT Expertise: The Seiber Advantage
Seiber stands as a beacon of knowledge and expertise in the field of information security, offering a comprehensive OSINT training program designed to empower individuals with the skills and knowledge to navigate the vast realm of OSINT.
Seiber's OSINT course covers a wide range of topics, including:
OSINT fundamentals: The course introduces the principles of OSINT, including the different types of open-source data, the legal and ethical considerations of OSINT, and the tools and techniques used to gather and analyse open-source data.
OSINT applications: The course explores the various applications of OSINT, including cybersecurity threat intelligence, business intelligence, law enforcement investigations, and journalism.
Hands-on training: The course provides hands-on training in using a variety of OSINT tools and techniques, allowing participants to apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios.
Whether you are a cybersecurity professional seeking to enhance your OSINT skills, a business intelligence analyst looking for new sources of information, or a journalist seeking to verify information for your stories, Seiber's 1-day NCSC Assured Training Introduction to Open-Source Intelligence course, can provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to effectively leverage OSINT to achieve your goals.
Seiber's introduction to OSINT course stands out as a cornerstone of the company's commitment to fostering OSINT proficiency.
This meticulously crafted program delves into the intricacies of OSINT, providing participants with a comprehensive understanding of the principles, applications, and real-world implications of this powerful tool.
The course meticulously lays the foundation for OSINT mastery, introducing participants to the diverse range of open-source data, the legal and ethical considerations that govern its use, and the array of tools and techniques employed to gather and analyse this vast trove of information.
If you are ready to take your OSINT skills to the next level, Seiber's OSINT course is the perfect place to start. You can find out more about our course features, objectives, and how to enrol here.