Open Source Intelligence (OSINT): What Is It?

“Information does not have to be secret to be valuable,” says the CIA’s website on Open Source Intelligence. The internet is a huge place, with over 500 million tweets sent and four petabytes of data created on Facebook every single day

All of this information is data that can be available to you with the right tools. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is a way for businesses, including law firms, insurance companies, or human resources departments, to automate their online investigations and capture all available information.

What is Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)?


“Open Source” refers to data and information that is collected from publicly available sources, including social media, blogs, websites, newspapers, public government records, images, and academic or professional publications. Therefore, the full term “Open Source Intelligence,” which abbreviates to OSINT, refers to the aggregation and analysis of publicly available information for intelligence use. OSINT tools are a way to optimize intelligence and data gathering for applications in many investigative contexts. 

How Does It Work? 

OSINT tools use a combination of artificial intelligence, computer vision, and Natural Language Processing to comb the open web for mentions and data that are relevant to a specific search. For example, the Skopenow OSINT software uses a proprietary web crawler to aggregate relevant data from all publicly available sources on the World Wide Web. At the core, that is what OSINT is, but other features can be helpful for any type of investigation. Skopenow can also skip trace (track location data based on social media geographic tags), identify behavioral keywords in both text and images, and track associations between two people or businesses. 

Why OSINT Is Useful


A Google search is just the tip of the iceberg. The internet is divided into several categories, one of which is called the Surface Web. The Surface Web is everything that can be indexed by a search engine, such as Google or Bing, and only accounts for about 4% of content on the internet. By doing a simple Google search, not all of the relevant information that you’re looking for to use in an investigation will show up. It might be hidden behind paywalls or logins, or it might be on the fourth or fifth page of the search engine results. 

An open source tool helps to automate and speed up the investigative process, as well as making sure that no relevant data slips through the cracks. This is helpful for all analysts and investigators who use open web data sources. 

This can be applied to many industries, including global security, insurance, law, private investigations, human resources, law enforcement, and government agencies. OSINT tools can track relevant data points, locate recent locations of people or businesses, and find known addresses, phone numbers, emails, and contact information for relatives. For industry-specific examples, click here

One risk of OSINT collection at scale is information overload. The internet is a huge place, and the sheer volume of data that an OSINT search digs up can be overwhelming. The easiest solution for this is narrowing your focus and using a tool like Skopenow is to answer specific questions in an investigation. 

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.