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How To Use Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) In Your Business

March 30, 2023 No Comments

by Darcy Carpenter

You’ve probably noticed the term ‘open source intelligence (OSINT)’ being thrown around a lot recently. It’s often mentioned in relation to the ongoing war in Ukraine, where OSINT is perhaps the world’s only unbiased source of military actions and losses. Everything from satellite images to drone footage is shared over the internet, making this conflict the most documented in history.

However, a shooting war isn’t the only domain OSINT excels at. Security experts have observed that more companies have also been using OSINT data for risk mitigation. In this post-pandemic economy, uncertainty prompts gathering as many certainties from as many sources as possible. Here’s a look into how businesses harness such data to their advantage.

What Is OSINT?

To understand its role in modern business management, knowing what OSINT is first is crucial. One definition can be found in the footnotes of Section 403-5 under Title 50 of the U.S. Code (War and National Defense), which outlines three factors:

– Produced from publicly available information

– Collected and disseminated in a timely manner

– To fulfill a specific intelligence requirement

The keyword here is ‘publicly available’ because it makes up the ‘open source’ part. Something ‘publicly available’ means that people can access it without any need for specialized skills and techniques to do so. If ‘open source’ also sounds familiar, it’s because it also refers to coding or software that anyone can use for free, like Linux.

OSINT sources are more widespread than you might think. Some of these include:

– News media content (not locked behind a paywall)

– Data made available upon request (e.g., census data)

– Data made available via subscriptions (e.g., academic papers)

– Insights based on what a person saw or heard

– Information made public via conferences or meetings

This much data at your fingertips can be both a boon and a bane. Finding the necessary data won’t be a problem most of the time, as there’s plenty of it to go around. But simultaneously, you’ll be at risk of information overload without the necessary open source intelligence tools.

How To Use OSINT?

As mentioned earlier, OSINT is commonly employed in a risk mitigation role. According to a survey of more than 2,000 risk management experts by Allianz, the top five risks to businesses across the globe for this year are:

– Cybersecurity incidents (34%)

– Business interruptions (34%)

– Macroeconomic developments (25%)

– Energy shortages (22%)

– Legislation updates (19%)

There’s no doubt that mitigating the effects of each of these risks would require copious amounts of open source data. Here’s a summary of how OSINT can be beneficial in each situation.

1. Cybersecurity

OSINT in cybersecurity can be employed offensively and defensively. Both white and black-hat hacking harness open source data to study a business’s cybersecurity framework, its blind spots, and the data it houses.

In this case, Google is the primary source of OSINT data (as is for other aspects). Experts believe running a simple Google search already constitutes 85% of the necessary research, with the rest from more specialized tools. One good example is a dork, which uses specific queries (e.g., filetype, site, inurl) to access data not ordinarily accessible.

2. Business Interruption

Business interruptions have a broader scope. Apart from the aspects mentioned in this piece, interruptions include (but aren’t limited to) moving to a new location, technical difficulties, unexpected expenses, and forced temporary or permanent closures. Staying up-to-date with current affairs is an excellent way to use OSINT data.

3. Macroeconomics

Foresight is an important skill for business owners, albeit mastering it isn’t easy. An example is inflation, which has become the talk of the town in recent months. Business owners should know that inflation affects consumers’ ability to purchase goods or services.

Achieving a 100% prediction on such trends is impossible, but seeing a pattern is enough to prompt businesses to take action. Fortunately, everyone can view macroeconomic data from certain open-access websites like the World Bank’s database.

4. Energy crises

Macroeconomic trends have a hand in affecting business expenditures, most notably energy consumption. When you add an economy still reeling from the pandemic into the mix, it’s logical for business owners to cut back on their energy consumption.

As such, gathering OSINT data on a business’s energy consumption has become a staple in recent years. For example, in 2012, Facebook released data regarding how much energy its data centers used in the previous year to the public. While it made Facebook more mindful of its usage, it also educated millions of users on their carbon footprint when using Facebook.

5. Legislation updates

New laws and updates on existing laws can hinder business operations, from revisions of fair labor standards to health and cybersecurity compliance. Although these changes go through a series of hurdles before becoming laws, businesses must be aware of their effects should they push through. News articles and official statements are ideal sources of OSINT in this regard.


OSINT works just as well for businesses as it does for soldiers. It provides mostly unrestricted access to vital information they can use to remain in the running, if not outperform competitors. OSINT will likely be a staple in making sound decisions in this post-pandemic economy.

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