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Open Source Intelligence: Why is it so Important?

Open Source Intelligence, also known as OSINT: it sounds daunting, but it is really quite simple. According to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and the U.S. Department of Defense, OSINT is “produced from publicly available information that is collected, exploited, and disseminated in a timely manner to an appropriate audience for the purpose of addressing a specific intelligence requirement.” Simply put, it refers to free and unclassified information.

Open Source Intelligence

OSINT is used in modern business and elsewhere, as everyone in today’s data-centric world can benefit from free information. Though businesses originally saw OSINT as competition, they now see it as something to work with because they know that they cannot defeat what OSINT has to offer. Main benefits of OSINT are the immediate financial savings over traditional intelligence gathering methodologies and the ability to access and utilize OSINT anywhere, anytime. Businesses can essentially expand their knowledge. Knowledge gained can be used to prep before a meeting with a customer (having a personal connection accessible via OSINT to use always helps) or the greater ability to stay up to date with where companies and competitors are at on the market and where they are doing business.

Companies specializing intelligence software, such as Expert System, who use OSINT software to help companies improve their business, have written interesting articles on the pros and cons of Open Source Intelligence and continue to improve the capabilities of such software.

Other OSINT communities include: Intelligence, Armed Forces, Homeland Security, Law Enforcement and Government. Additional uses for Open Source Intelligence software differ between communities, as they can access and share information as they see fit. In the political space, OSINT can be used to identify if a government has changed its stance towards another and why. The government, for example, also has a very commonly discussed open-source activity: “media monitoring”.  Homeland Security uses OSINT to connect with the public and maintain safety.

DNI Open Source Center (OSC) Director, Douglas Naquin says, “Just because open source is ‘free’ or publicly available doesn’t mean it is easy.” He stresses the work done by Open Source Officers in order to filter, understand and analyze the material that comes into the DNI Open Source Center. Open Source Officers must, for example, be sensitive to cultural nuances as well as experts in their fields.

Undoubtedly, we are in a very data-centric world. OSINT is incredibly important for all communities and organizations. For businesses specifically, making the most of information that is out there is vital for businesses looking to make the maximum profit from their businesses. If open source intelligence is not utilized, businesses risk setting the bar too low and even missing out on all the information that is out there. There is even information out there on what did not work for companies. Marc Demarest, a principal in Noumenal, Inc., an international management consulting firm, said, “Strategy, business model, competitive dynamics — all these things influence technology architecture and implementation decisions, but again, why re-make someone else’s mistakes? Why rediscover someone else’s approximations? Why remap territory?” With the means out there to anticipate change and monitor activity in the market (especially amongst your competitors), OSINT gives modern businesses the tools to strategize, make well-informed decisions and make the maximum profit possible.

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