Ultimately, open source intelligence refers to a research methodology based on seeking information from open sources, usually hosted on the Internet. However, although it is assumed that everyone knows how to search the web, the truth is that few Internet users are able to do it professionally. That is why, in order to comply with this open research system, it is not only enough to carry out a process of inquiry. We recently wrote about what types of private companies using OSINT.
Beyond that, it is essential to comply with a series of steps, stages, or phases that simplify the process and allow quality results to be obtained. For this reason, the OSINT research process has been structured by means of a clear and concise procedure that is based on a total of six phases and, once each of them is correctly applied, the research work will be greatly expedited.
Each of these phases is explained below:
- Establish objectives and set requirements.
This is the first stage of the research process, which is based on defining all the requirements that must be met throughout the exploration. Therefore, you must establish each of the conditions that must be satisfied to meet the goal or solve the problem in question, as well as specify what the information to be found will be used for and what type of information it will be.
- Identify the most important sources of information
Next, you will have to carry out a study based on each and every one of the open sources of information that can provide more data or information for your research. In this way, you should specify the sources of interest that will be collected, by means of the requirements established at the beginning. This will help to simplify and optimize the collection process.
- Acquisition of the information to be studied
This is the third phase of the OSINT research process, in which the information will be gathered through the indicated sources. Therefore, it is defined as one of the most important pillars of the whole procedure, since you will have to collect and study those web pages, newspapers, magazines, books, or documents located during the second stage.
- Processing the collected data
Once all the raw information is collected, it is time to start the fourth phase of the procedure, which is based on processing each of the data collected. This basically consists of formatting the information collected so that it can later enter the analysis period.
- Analysis of the processed information
After processing all the data collected, it is time to start the fifth phase of the process. This is the one in which intelligence is generated through the collected and processed information. Thus, its main objective is to relate or link the information from various sources to look for patterns that allow obtaining some relevant conclusion. With this, this analysis offers the possibility of hierarchizing the levels of importance of the acquired information.
- Presentation of intelligence
Finally, it is appropriate to begin the presentation phase, which consists of presenting the information gathered in a potentially useful and understandable way so that it can be exploited in the most optimal way. This means that it will be determinant to give a format to the investigated information so that it is interpretable and practical to conclude with the inquiry and to obtain opportune conclusions.
Some of the most common uses of the above OSINT process are as follows:
- Identify, study, and prevent possible threats that exist in the military field or concerning a country’s national security.
- To search for or track an individual who is responsible for specific abnormal or suspicious actions.
- Evaluate the level of privacy and security of a company or organization
- Analyze the launch of a marketing campaign.
- Study market trends to assist product development.
- To understand the online reputation of a company, brand, or user.
- To assist and aid journalistic research.
- To carry out psychological, sociological, and linguistic studies.
- Negatively, it is also used to launch social engineering and phishing attacks by cybercriminals.