One common misconception about OSINT is that it’s mainly practiced by state governments, spies, and online cybercriminals. However, OSINT and OSINT-adjacent fields are utilized by a variety of different industries other than world governments. So much so, the employment and career outlook for OSINT specialists has skyrocketed in recent years, especially in the private industry. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but below are a few industries that actively use and employ open source intelligence specialists and services.
Private Investigators and Investigative Firms
Licensed private investigators and PI firms likely would not exist in the digital age if open-source intelligence did not exist. Of course, there is still a huge need for on-site, boots-on-the-ground surveillance; but in many cases, the make-or-break evidence the PI needs for his or her client is a solid digital footprint of their target. Private investigations usually start with a name, an address, and a goal. With OSINT, a name and an address can often fine-tune a case target’s whereabouts and reveal data that wouldn’t have been seen from on-site investigations.
Family Court & Divorce Attorneys
Similar to private investigators, attorneys often seek out the services of digital forensics and investigative services to help their client’s cases. OSINT is widely utilized inside civil and family court cases- often retaining a specialist as an expert witness or relying on a digital footprint ‘smoking gun’ that can secure a win. Family court lawyers are especially reliant on open source intelligence and digital forensics services to trace evidence back to a defendant’s infidelity, malice, or adultery.
Business Due Diligence & KYC (Know Your Customer)
Investors, mergers and acquisitions, and professional partnership agreements can quickly go underwater if a due diligence investigation was neglected. Imagine that an investor wants to acquire a company that looks fantastic on paper. But, at the end of the day- it’s just paper. ROI’s, profit, and revenue can be easily manipulated by anyone that’s savvy enough. Or another scenario: a business wants to enter a partnership with another party- a party that isn’t being truthful about their past business arrangements and current, ongoing civil matters. KYC and due diligence is a major factor when deciding crucial business deals, and the lack of a vetting strategy can be potentially devastating to a business or personal agreement.