OpenSource intelligence (OSINT)

Written By Andrea Pompili
954OpenSource intelligence (OSINT)

Open Source Intelligence is an intelligence discipline that deals with the research, collection and analysis of data and news of public interest taken from open sources; therefore, it deals with all the information available to the public.
In this sense, the important element is not the level of accessibility, the availability or the gratuitousness of the sources, but the fact that their use for intelligence purposes does not violate any regulatory provisions, including copyright and privacy protection rules.

All information used for the OSINT analysis are available online or offline:
• Internet access: forums, blogs, social networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis, metadata and digital files, dark web resources, geolocation data, IP addresses, people’s search engines and everything else that can be found online;
• Traditional media: Television, radio, newspapers, books, magazines;
• Specialized magazines: Academic publications, degree thesis, conference proceedings, company profiles, annual reports, company news, employee profiles and resumes;
• Photos and videos including metadata;
• Geospatial Information: Maps and commercial image products.

The identification of sources is only the first of the four phases of OSINT, summarized in the “4D” cycle:
• Discovery;
• Discrimination;
• Distillation;
• Dissemination.

The second phase includes the use of a software to identify the most useful information to achieve a given objective. The last two phases of the cycle are more properly addressed to the drafting and dissemination of research results.

The OSINT process consists of four steps:
• Open Source Data, a complex field of primary reference sources, e.g. photographs, images, documents, audio and video recordings, satellite images, oral debriefing, etc.;
• Open Source Information’s, secondary raw data emerged and appropriately filtered by OSD data analysis. They generally consist of raw data that can be agglomerated, usually with an editing process;
• Open Source Intelligence, information derived from a voluntary process of analysis, filtering, distillation and dissemination to a specific selected category, designed to meet particular information needs, using their own Intelligence processes. In the OSINT process, in other words, the proven intelligence techniques for the wide variety of open sources of information are applied. For example: a significant article from an online newspaper is used to support a military operation. A photo accompanying the article can be useful for the geographical identification of the insurgents’ location, and could be used to support a tailored operation to attack the rebels;
• Validated Open Source Intelligence (OSINT-V), it is information to which a high degree of certainty has been attributed.

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