Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is having a moment. Just a few years ago, presentations on OSINT began with a quote from one of a few different senior intelligence community officials who reportedly said that somewhere between 80-90% of valuable information comes from public sources. Many presentations today start similarly, but OSINT no longer needs the validation of government greats. Films like Searching and Don’t f**ck with Cats have introduced the discipline to a wider audience, organizations such as Trace Labs host popular OSINT competitions for the common good, and the investigators associated with the website Bellingcat are now media fixtures.
These developments are welcome news but have created a somewhat misleading perception of OSINT as a field primarily for technically advanced investigators who use sophisticated techniques and programs to doggedly hunt down the proverbial “needle in a haystack” of information. The reality is that most OSINT work in the corporate security environment is more akin to wading through piles of gems and the greater challenge for intelligence analysts is typically deciding how to arrange these gems into a coherent narrative.