Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is the collection and analysis of data gathered from open sources with the purpose of answering a specific intelligence question. Information is collected from various sources, such as public records, news, libraries, social media platforms, websites, and the Dark Web.
Types of intelligence collection
OSINT is only a part of the broader realm of intelligence collection. Here is the complete list of intelligence gathering disciplines.
Social Media Intelligence
Social Media Intelligence (SOCMINT) is a subset of OSINT, which refers to the collection and analysis of data from social media websites. It includes all social media platforms, not only social networking sites.
Market Intelligence (MARKINT) is intelligence gathered from the global capital markets.
Blockchain Intelligence (BLOCKINT) is a subset of FININT and involves analysing data about cryptocurrency transactions on the blockchain.
Financial Intelligence (FININT) is the gathering of information about the financial affairs of entities of interest, to understand their nature and capabilities, and predict their intentions.
Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) is an analysis of images (typically from satellites) and data associated with a particular location. It combines several disciplines such as mapping, charting, imagery analysis, and imagery intelligence.
Human Intelligence (HUMINT) is intelligence gathered by means of human sources and interpersonal contact. It can be conducted in a variety of ways, including via espionage, reconnaissance, interrogation or witness interviews.
Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) is intelligence-gathering by interception of signals, whether communications between people or from electronic signals not directly used in communication. Being a broad field, SIGINT has many sub-disciplines. The two main ones are Communications Intelligence and Electronic Intelligence.
Communications Intelligence (COMINT) is a sub-category of signals intelligence that engages in dealing with messages or voice information derived from the interception of foreign communications.
Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) is intelligence gathered by the use of electronic sensors. Information derived primarily from electronic signals that do not contain speech or text. It is commonly used to detect enemy ships and aircrafts.
IMINT (Imagery Intelligence) is intelligence derived from the exploitation of imagery collected by visual photography, infrared, lasers, multi-spectral sensors, and radars.
Measurement and Signature Intelligence
Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) is an intelligence discipline built on capturing and measuring the intrinsic characteristics and components of an object or activity. These characteristics allow the object or activity to be detected, identified, or characterized every time it is encountered.
Technical Intelligence (TECHINT) is intelligence about weapons and equipment used by the armed forces of foreign nations.
Cyber or Digital Network Intelligence
Cyber or Digital Network Intelligence (CYBINT / DNINT) is intelligence gathered from cyberspace.
When did OSINT begin?
OSINT roots trace to the Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service (FBMS), created in 1941. FBMS was an American agency responsible for monitoring foreign broadcasts.
Why is OSINT important?
OSINT gathers information that is publicly available and legally accessible. This means that organizations can avoid using classified or restricted sources of information, which can be expensive and time-consuming to obtain.
Is OSINT legal?
Yes, to some extent. Typically, OSINT analysts utilise publicly available data. Nevertheless, there are certain gray areas in OSINT where one may work with data leaks or access private information. In such cases, it is important to be aware of the applicable laws and regulations.
Can AI replace OSINT professionals?
No, it can’t. Even OSINT professionals should not rely solely on AI tools, as they can be biased, and limited in context and knowledge. Moreover, their knowledge is only as good as the data they have been trained on.
I can easily find information. Am I an OSINT expert?
It’s just a raw information you have collected, it lacks context and analysis. OSINT has a methodology to collect, process and analyse information to solve a particular problem. Raw data produces no insights.
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