Often in the course of our business, we use OSINT to inform our casework. But what is OSINT and how do you not only gather the information but remain safe online whilst doing so? Here we provide a brief overview of OSINT and SOCMINT, and also some considerations around security when carrying out research and analysis.
What is OSINT?
OSINT is the practice of collecting and analysing publicly accessible information to be used in an intelligence context. Trained OSINT researchers use advanced techniques and tools in order to wade through the vast amounts of data online and offline in order to find that golden nugget of information.
OSINT is used by a wide range of industries, from recruiters looking into whether a potential job candidate is a right fit for the role to law enforcement who require intelligence on a suspect. Many security departments are performing OSINT activities more and more on their own companies to lock down their operational security.
Online information is in abundance and due to its transient nature, understanding how to navigate the surface, deep, and dark web can take people who are new to OSINT a long time to work out where and how to find pieces of information relevant to their requirement.
‘Requirement’ is a big word in the intelligence community as it is arguably the most important aspect of an investigation. Without a requirement, a clear understanding of your objectives, you will be looking into the open-source abyss and will not find success in what you are trying to achieve.
A clear understanding of the questions being asked and a plan on how to collect the information to answer those questions will make all the difference to the progression of your case.
Social Media Intelligence (SOCMINT or SMI)
The term SOCMINT was coined in a 2012 paper written by Sir David Omand, Jamie Bartlett and Carl Miller for the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media. To read the paper, click here.
SOCMINT is part of the OSINT realm and the techniques to research and investigate on social media are a little different from those across the rest of the online world. With a vast amount of personal information available and made public, SOCMINT techniques can really help you explore the deeper parts of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, and harness all the information it has according to your requirement for analysis.
Is someone watching you, watching them?
One question to ask yourself when conducting an OSINT investigation is how visible are you when searching online? Everything from your IP address through to the profiles you are using can be seen by others. There are many ways in which you can view the data that you are leaking and even more ways to resolve this issue with simple and free tools and techniques.
As a leading corporate intelligence company, Millbank Solutions not only conducts OSINT investigations for clients using our expert knowledge and skills, but we also provide you with the training to carry out these investigations yourself. Our team of former law enforcement and government agency officers have an enormous amount of experience to draw upon as well as keeping up to date with new and improved software and techniques as the online world evolves.
Whether you require 1 to 1 training on online analytical techniques, or a large group needs assistance on their safety and security when running online operations, Millbank Solutions is here to give you all the help and information you could need.
About the Author: Kathryn Caudrelier is the Director of Intelligence at Millbank Solutions, a leading supplier of corporate intelligence services.