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8 Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) Myths

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is an up-and-coming industry used by many companies that are looking to take advantage of the digital world. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about what OSINT is and how it can be used. To help, we’ve put together a list of the following eight OSINT myths to clear things up. 

  1. OSINT is just Googling.  
  2. OSINT is a verb. 
  3. Is OSINT legal? 
  4. OSINT is only for cybersecurity.
  5. You need to be tech-savvy or an expert to use OSINT. 
  6. OSINT is only social media. 
  7. I don’t have enough information to use OSINT. 
  8. OSINT is surveillance and a violation of privacy.

1. Myth: OSINT is just Googling.

Doing a general Google search to find information limits your results to what Google indexes, forcing you to manually sift through the recommended search results. OSINT tools like Skopenow provide comprehensive discovery of information across multiple sources, not just search engine results. Skopenow aggregates all relevant open web and social media data in a few seconds, while manual Google search investigations can take hours and might still miss information. 

Another big difference is analysis. A simple Google search gives the most search engine optimized links but it is up to the investigator to pull out the relevant information. In contrast, OSINT tools assemble the data, but can also analyze it.

OSINT tools have access to more information than is available to the average search engine user. A search engine like Google or Bing can only access the Surface Web or about 4% of the internet that is able to be indexed by search engines. Some OSINT tools can access parts of the Deep Web that are behind logins or paywalls. For example, Skopenow can access federal court records and other social APIS that may be difficult to come by. Additionally, many OSINT tools allow investigators to remain anonymous while searching.

2. Myth: OSINT is a verb.

Many individuals and organizations throughout the intelligence space have started referring to OSINT as a verb, or something you do. This has diluted the value of OSINT to something that can be done instantly, like a Google search, a reverse image search, or taking a screenshot of a social media profile, and has changed the perception around OSINT in industries where it can be most valuable. 

OSINT is the final product of information that is collected and analyzed with a particular goal or requirement in mind. It isn’t the raw data that’s valuable, nor is it the act of collecting that data that’s valuable; it’s the analysis and interpretation of that data that brings it value. Skopenow collects information from publicly available sources to produce a report that can be used in your investigation. It’s OSINT because it takes raw data and adds value by automatically analyzing that information—highlighting behaviors and associations—to help aid you in your investigative process. 

3. Is OSINT legal? 

Yes, OSINT tools are legal. They collect and analyze information that is already publicly available on the open web, such as social media, blogs, newspapers, government records, and academic and professional publications. OSINT tools are unable to penetrate social media privacy settings and other private content. OSINT can be used for illegal practices, such as black hat hacking or stalking, but Skopenow thoroughly vets all customers to ensure that we only work with white hat investigators and red team hackers. 

4. Myth: OSINT is only for cybersecurity. 

Not true! Though OSINT is very helpful for the cybersecurity world (i.e. ethical hacking, blue team/red team exercises, etc.), it can optimize online investigations in many other industries including global security, human resources, education, law enforcement, private investigation, and insurance. 

5. Myth: You need to be tech-savvy or an expert to use OSINT. 

False! Using OSINT can be (almost) as easy as using Google. Skopenow is built to be as intuitive and user friendly as possible, and we have many video tutorials and team members who can help. There’s no coding or fancy technical language. Skopenow’s interface looks like an advanced search engine where the user’s only job is to enter all available information on their search subject. Then, Skopenow will do all of the heavy lifting to aggregate and analyze the data and give organized results that are easily extracted to the final report.

6. Myth: OSINT is only social media. 

OSINT tools search through the open web, which is made up of all publicly available information. This includes social media profiles but also blogs, websites, newspapers, and professional, academic publications, court records, licenses, and ownership records.

7. Myth: I don’t have enough information to use OSINT. 

Most likely, you do! Any amount of information can be valuable in a Skopenow search. You can have an entire profile on someone (name, location, phone, email, etc.), or you can just have one data point, such as a phone number or a username, to get started. 

8. Myth: OSINT is surveillance and violates privacy. 

OSINT only uses information that people and businesses have publicly posted online. While you can use OSINT to monitor people’s online behavior, it is not surveillance because the one who posted the content agreed for the information to be public. Therefore, investigators aren’t collecting private information without their knowledge. 

Skopenow is an analytical search engine that uses social media and open web data to provide actionable intelligence. Skopenow's platform identifies, collects, and analyzes public information on people and businesses by scouring millions of sources and data points. While Skopenow is built for use in insurance, government, and law, the product is also highly applicable in HR, real estate, and education.