The future of "Open-Source" intelligence - Digital Threat Digest
PGI’s Digital Investigations Team brings you the Digital Threat Digest, SOCMINT and OSINT insights into disinformation, influence operations, and online harms.
Open-source intelligence (OSINT) has always been a precarious concept: gathering freely accessible data from open sources, often using free or inexpensive tools. The creativity of freelance analysts, coders, and enthusiasts led to some surprisingly useful intelligence gathering, intelligence which was often released freely to build a personal brand or impress their followers. It led to a great product for the consumer for virtually no cost. In our world, that’s unsustainable.
The ultimate limiting factor for OSINT has always been the quality and accessibility of open source information. Without it, there is no ‘OS’ in OSINT, and you’d likely need the power of a company or government behind you to unlock ever-more expensive closed data sources. That puts OSINT between a rock and a hard place: OSINT produces higher quality analysis over time as practices are refined, but that means people will be willing to pay higher and higher sums for that intelligence. Eventually, people all along the production chain notice there’s money to be made, and open-source data, tools, and information becomes walled off. By virtue of its own success, OSINT digs its own grave.
It doesn’t have to end this way, however; with paywalls around every spare bit of information on the internet. The inevitability of money-making in OSINT can be used to keep a fair amount of data, research and tooling free if it’s managed in a sustainable way. As the pendulum swings towards closed-source intelligence, remaining holdouts of open-source intelligence become more intrinsically valuable. While technically free, this data draws more attention as everyone else closes off.
This can be used to draw people into a hybrid platform- where a mix of both closed and open-source intelligence services are offered. The attention that high quality open-source intelligence brings acts as marketing for closed-source options, which in turn pay to produce open-source intelligence. In a world where closing off intelligence is the trend, keeping intelligence free can actually be both more profitable and sustainable in the long run, while also providing a much needed resource for consumers who can’t afford other options.
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Our Digital Investigations Analysts combine modern exploitative technology with deep human analytical expertise that covers the social media platforms themselves and the behaviours and the intents of those who use them. Our experienced analyst team have a deep understanding of how various threat groups use social media and follow a three-pronged approach focused on content, behaviour and infrastructure to assess and substantiate threat landscapes.
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