OSINT for Amateurs

January 13, 2022

Today I had a New Year chat with a person whom I met at specialized services conferences. I relayed to my friend the news that Robert David Steele, whom I knew since 1986, died in the autumn of 2021. Steele, a former US government professional, was described as one of the people who pushed open source intelligence down the bobsled run to broad use in government entities. Was he the “father of OSINT”? I don’t know, He and I talked via voice and email each week for more than 30 years. Our conversations explored the value of open source intelligence and how to obtain it.

After the call I read “How to Find Anyone on the Internet for Free.”

Wow, shallow. Steele would have had sharp words for the article.

The suggestions are just okay. Plus it is clear that a lack of awareness about OSINT exists.

My suggestion is that anyone writing about this subject spend some time learning about OSINT. There are books from professionals like Steele as well as my CyberOSINT: Next Generation Information Access. Also, attending a virtual conference about OSINT offered by those who have a background in intelligence would be useful. Finally, there are numerous resources available from intelligence gathering organizations. Some of these “lists” include a description of each site, service, or system mentioned.

For me and my team’s part, we are working to create 60 second videos which we will make available on Instagram-type services. Each short profile of an OSINT resource will appear under the banner “OSINT Radar.” These will be high value OSINT resources. Some of this information will also be presented in a new series of short articles and videos that Meg Coker, a former senior telecommunications executive, and I will create. Look for these in LinkedIn and other online channels.

Hopefully the information from OSINT Radar and the Coker-Arnold collaboration will provide useful data about OSINT resources which are useful and effective. Free and OSINT can go together, but the hard reality is that an increasing number of OSINT resources charge for the information on offer.

OSINT, unfortunately, is getting more difficult to obtain. Examples include China’s cut offs of technology information and the loss of shipping and train information from Ukraine. And there are more choke points; for example, Iran and North Korea. This means that OSINT is likely to require more effort than previously. The mix of machine and human work is changing. Consequently more informed and substantive information about OSINT will be required in 2022. The OSINT for amateurs approach is an outdated game.

Coker and Arnold are playing a new game.

Stephen E Arnold, January 13, 2022

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