How is open source intelligence being used?

Open source intelligence technologies are used by a wide variety of investigators and analysts from all walks of life, including cybersecurity operations analysts, law enforcement agencies, fraud investigators, threat hunters, researchers, investigative journalists, and more.

This means that open source intelligence can be used for a wide range of use cases, especially those that rely on or involve Internet-based research. Let's take a look at some of the most common use cases we've observed involving open source intelligence.

1. Network Security Operations

Security professionals and ethical hackers use open source intelligence to identify potential weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and external threats in networks. From discovering unpatched software or insecure IoT vulnerabilities to monitoring underground criminal chatter, open source intelligence provides a wealth of data and information to aid incident response, damage remediation, threat intelligence, brand protection, penetration testing, network footprinting, and other investigations.

2. Social Media Investigations

According to Statista, more than 3.6 billion people worldwide will be social media users in 2020, and another billion will be by 2025. The vast amount of content and information created and shared on social media platforms naturally becomes a form of open source intelligence:

a. Social activity such as posts, photos, avatars, comments and activity responses

b. Personal information such as name, alias, birthday, email address, education and career history

c. Relationships, such as friends, family, followers, and followers

d. Topic-based groups, communities, and members

Investigators can comb through the social media footprints of cybercriminals to identify potential co-conspirators and map out related cybercriminal networks. They can also track the social media activity of missing persons to identify last seen locations, possible suspects and the lifestyles of victims.

3. Risk Management and Fraud Investigation

Fraud investigators and risk management professionals can use open source intelligence to manage and identify violations of intellectual property rights, as well as fraudulent, counterfeit and diverted products sold over the Internet. They can also use open source intelligence to reduce organizational risk, identify potential loss events, and assist in loss recovery efforts.

The scope and depth of open source intelligence is virtually borderless, as it can also be used for other use cases such as phishing, cryptocurrency money laundering, job investigations, deep and dark web investigations, and more. It all depends on what tools and data sources you have and how you interpret and relate the information you have at your disposal.

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