Seven myths about OSINT*

Seven myths about OSINT*
2018-06-14 Sara Ekberg

Seven myths about OSINT*

* Open Source Intelligence

OSINT has become standard practice for a lot of organizations in today’s thoroughly digitalized world. From law enforcement, insurance and banking to journalism, corporate investigations and private detective work. And yet there are still a number of misconceptions about what open source intelligence actually is and how it can be used. So we’ve put together a list of our favourite OSINT myths to help clear things up.

1. OSINT means collecting all available data on absolutely everyone

Given the recent reports about data mining and global surveillance, some people might come to the conclusion that OSINT means collecting all of the available data on absolutely everyone. Not at all. It usually just involves specific searches to obtain certain key information and then discarding the rest. Mainly because the task of processing the huge volume of data generated through data mining is simply too time-consuming.

2. OSINT is just for experts

Not true. In fact, most OSINT software these days is designed to guide you through the various stages of each investigation. Often with special features for less experienced investigators, like prompts and hints for certain types of information. So don’t be intimidated by OSINT, pretty much anyone can do it. However. Not everyone will master it.

3. OSINT is a breeze

While one myth implies that OSINT is just for experts, ironically there’s another myth that claims OSINT is perfectly straightforward and requires absolutely no expertise or training. Neither is true. Although getting started with OSINT investigations is relatively easy, the slightly more complex investigations take time and a lot of training. To get the best results from an investigation you either need training, experience or special software to help you. Preferably all three. You have to know what to look for and where to find it. Not only that, but you also have to make sure you don’t jeopardize your investigation by leaving a trail and exposing yourself.

4. OSINT is just a bunch of Google searches

One of the most common misconceptions about OSINT is that it’s basically just a bunch of Google searches. It’s not. Naturally, a lot of information can be obtained via Google but there are a vast number of other sources you can get OSINT from. For example, broadcast media, print media, public records and the academic world, to name just a few. Not to mention the non-indexed areas of the internet known as the deep web, which are also great sources of OSINT.

5. OSINT is less valuable because it’s not confidential data

It’s not always the case that confidential data is superior to information that is readily available. When information is in the public domain, it’s in everyone’s interest to ensure that the information is accurate and correct. Not only that, but more people can access and therefore review open source information than confidential information. Take Wikipedia, for example. There is more chance of a certain fact being true on Wikipedia than in, say, a restricted forum for a small group of people.

6. Investigation results should be based purely on confidential data

Just like there’s a myth about OSINT being less valuable than confidential information, a lot of people seem to believe that investigation results should be based purely on confidential data. But in actual fact, the sum total of open data collected will always be greater than the volume of confidential data collected. So disregarding OSINT could mean you’re missing out on potentially crucial information.

 7. OSINT is always free

Just because it’s called open source doesn’t mean the information is always free. That said, it’s still far less expensive than a lot of other investigative methods. You might, for example, end up spending a few thousand dollars on an OSINT analyst plus online or printed media. But collecting the same information using traditional methods would cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

With Paliscope you’ll be able to complete your investigation quickly, easily and securely. Features include full and partial screenshot capability, to-do lists and specific tools for certain types of information. And we’ve got plenty more features in the pipeline, such as screen recording and a team version for joint investigations. Try it for free here!

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