OSINT Open Source Intelligence

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Just learning about the evolution of open source intelligence (OSINT) and it's usefulness for maintaining information sovereignty for intelligence operations. Source: Center for Strategic & International Studies - USA.

In summary, information advantage is a critical requirement for intelligence organisations. The goal is to effectively integrate new platforms and data into meaningful insights and decision advantage. Simply, being first to the information helps to minimise strategic surprise by adversarial actors.

Effective integration of OSINT into analysis of regions with fewer traditional collection assets could reduce the likelihood of strategic surprise.

Source: CSIS

There are several types of open source data-sets including social media, commercial imagery, public records, stolen or leaked data on black markets.

By using publicly available data sets and collaborating with non-official research groups (e.g. U.S. Strategic Command & Federation of American Scientists) the analysed findings can be used to publicly confront adversaries around the globe and respond in the ongoing war of narratives.

This overarching requirement for unclassified intelligence further emphasizes the potential value of OSINT in expanding the range of U.S. options to respond to adversarial behavior.

Source: CSIS

Independent groups are able to produce timely, unique, in-depth, public analysis, often published alongside lengthy documentary evidence and a description of the tradecraft used.  

The study found that “commercial satellite imagery can be just as influential in shaping public attitudes as information supplied by government intelligence agencies.”


What the article does not talk about are internal adversarial actors and antagonistic open source intelligence communities working on clandestine operations against the state, such as militant groups and armed co-ordinated attacks on public institutions (US Capital Riot/Attack). Their activities disrupt the stability of the state. The tools of big brother are used against big brother. The FBI and in the UK, MI5/Scotland Yard should be taking care of that, but there is definitely an overlap.

I think there needs to be continuous recalibration of the internal assets that comprise the states intelligence enterprises and a regular sweep over the data it collects to ensure it is not polluted. Either by algorithmic bias or human error/poisioning.

I also worried about the edge collection and analysis of data, if an edge device was to be stolen by an adversarial actor, pulled apart, hacked, re-engineered as a trojan horse, or re-made it could pollute the quality of information and create additional noise inside the intelligence network.

I also question the implicit trust in commerical data carriers networks and data-stores, such as telecommunications companies, satellite companies, drone flight records and the ability for others to tap into their feeds. There are so many porous holes in the OSINT model.

I enjoyed reading about this topic and leave you with a final quote an some open source data sets below:

In seeking clarity of potential malign activity, the recommended ISR enhancements—OSINT, expeditionary edge computing, and attritable UAVs—are intended to complement, rather than replace, the main elements of the national intelligence enterprise: the global signals intelligence (SIGINT) system, human intelligence (HUMINT) collection, geospatial intelligence (GEOINT), and the Open Source Enterprise (OSE). Synchronizing and synthesizing these elements will enable better-informed insights earlier in the decision cycle. This is essential for achieving an information advantage as malign activity emerges, potentially providing leaders with insights at mission speed.

Open Source Data Sets

OSINT Framework
27+ Big Data Statistics - How Big It Actually Is in 2021?
Did you know we generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day? Our big data statistics reveal much more interesting facts! Find out more!
Commercial Datasets | Earthdata
Mission specifications of commercial small satellites and the sensor characteristics for purchased data.
Kingi Gilbert

Kingi Gilbert

Producer. Ex-Saatchi & Saatchi, ex-Video Game Producer. Director Ignite Studios. Studied Entrepreneurship Acceleration @ Wharton, and Advertising & Marketing @ A.U.T.
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