What is OSINT and why is it so useful

Let’s start by looking at the definition of OSINT. It is an acronym for Open-Source Intelligence. It encompasses information gathered from publicly-available sources both offline and online. Offline OSINT sources can be public registers, public libraries, and archives open to the public, as well as news reports, search engines, online databases, social media networks, blog posts as well as public government data, academic publications, and even television reports, online videos, and public speeches (e.g., TED talks). In short, sources on all layers of the internet (surface, deep and dark web) are publicly accessible. Although OSINT can provide valuable insights, the information is spread out across a large number of open platforms and sources, which makes collecting and analyzing these use amounts of data not only time-consuming, but also puts a strain on human resources. That’s why law enforcement, HLS, and security services are looking at using OSINT tools to get the actionable insights quickly and accurately.

By using an OSINT tool, law enforcement, HLS, and security services do not have to handle the time-consuming and tedious job of gathering information from a vast range of sources anymore, which allows them to concentrate on other aspects of the investigation. Apart from the convenience, another important benefit of using OSINT tools is preventing information overload. When gathering big data, the volume of intelligence that these agencies need to go through is unprecedented and humanly impossible to be accomplished in a short timeframe. The OSINT tool allows for gathering and analyzing these vast amounts of data in the shortest amount of time possible, resulting in detailed intelligence that can be used for taking action.

In order to achieve this and to save time and resources, only the best OSINT tools should be used to prevent an investigator from being detected when gathering intelligence from OSINT sources. The solution of Cobwebs ensures that investigators remain anonymous and the search that they are conducting cannot be traced back to them. This ensures the personal safety of an investigator who is e.g., investigating a ruthless human trafficking gang. It also ensures that such gang members will be alerted about the investigations and will get rid of evidence that could have been used against them.

The automated web intelligence capabilities of a best-of-breed OSINT tool (e.g., Tangles of Cobwebs) allow authorities to locate certain individuals with limited public information as well as locate other persons in that individual’s online network. The OSINT tools can also carry out specific in-depth searches for extracting specific information to establish the real identities of virtual personalities (e.g., hackers) and map group connections tied to a specific individual.

For the best performance, OSINT tools need to use artificial intelligence (AI) to harness advanced capabilities such as machine learning and natural language processing (NLP). Since investigators often need to conduct their investigations cross-border, they need to collect intelligence that is often in a foreign language (e.g., a hacker forum on the deep web in Chinese or Russian). NLP algorithms allow for collecting and analyzing such intelligence to get valuable insights since the meaning behind the posts of a certain individual can be understood, and sentiment analysis can be performed to map the feelings of that individual towards certain topics. This valuable intelligence can be used to e.g., prevent a peaceful demonstration from turning into social unrest.

It is important to understand that AI capabilities do not only assist during the recon and data collection phase but are also extremely valuable for data analysis, which in turn is crucial for getting insights for follow-up.

To conclude, by utilizing OSINT tools in an easy-to-use AI web intelligence platform like Cobwebs Technologies’ Tangles, investigators can scour all levels of the internet as well as various social media platforms to gather open-source intelligence. This enables them to obtain precise and unrivaled web intelligence from the surface, deep, and dark web in a fraction of the time that it normally would take. This will save them precious time and speed up their investigations and even take action to prevent the next heist or terrorist attack.