What Is OSINT?
OSINT refers to open source intelligence, information legally gathered from public online sources about people, businesses, and their internet-related activities and free to access and use. A more expansive definition of OSINT includes public information that can be found on offline resources.
But because of the massive increase of internet users, plus many online tools for business, pleasure, and everything in between, OSINT typically refers to online-only information. That includes text, images, videos, and virtually anything publicly posted on the internet.
Intelligence gathering is of crucial importance for pen testers and threat actors alike. OSINT is websites and software that enable users to collect insights on an individual, organization, or anything online. Social media and an increase in online resources have made it easier than ever for people from around the world to communicate and share their lives. Unfortunately, it’s very easy for this info to fall into the wrong hands.
While OSINT is available to threat actors and other ill-intentioned users, it is also available to testing teams and IT admin. Fraudulent users will use OSINT to collect information on users in an attempt to cause harm. But your organization can use these same tools to get a comprehensive picture of its digital footprint to prevent future cyber security incidents.
Benefits of OSINT for Cybersecurity
At first, it may seem a little scary that all this personal and private information is available for anyone to access. But there are several benefits of OSINT for cybersecurity teams that may not be so obvious.
Gathering OSINT for personal or business use is an excellent way to understand your digital footprint, what information is available about you online, and give insights on potential vulnerabilities.
Here are the top three benefits of OSINT for cybersecurity.
How to Use OSINT
First and foremost, ethical hackers and other security professionals use OSINT to improve their cyber integrity. For example, an organization might use OSINT to identify potential network vulnerabilities, find unsecured IoT weaknesses, unpatched software, and even monitor cybercriminal trends.
OSINT also offers businesses a wealth of data to help with incident response and damage remediation activities. This includes threat intelligence, brand reputation management, and penetration testing, among many more.
Investigating Individuals on Social Media
Social media is a treasure trove of OSINT. Users post all kinds of content on social media platforms, from ads to fit checks to intimate personal thoughts. If you’ve ever been on Twitter, you’ll agree that social media is the modern version of the Wild West. Anything goes.
Plus, they are highly organized so that users can connect with similar users, learn new things, and even make purchases. That’s why social media platforms are perfect for information gathering. Especially for investigations looking into missing persons, specific cybercriminals, and understanding your organization’s social footprint.
How Threat Actors Use OSINT
Unfortunately, there are some people out there that do use OSINT with malicious intent. Every year there are about 1,862 data breaches worldwide with lasting financial, reputational, and personal impacts. Threat actors can quickly gather unlimited data about organizations, employees, and customers without breaking a single law. And while much of this information is useless on its own, as a collection, it poses a severe threat to cybersecurity.
Here’s how threat actors use OSINT to commit crimes.
Exposures and Vulnerabilities
Here are some of the top OSINT tools cybersecurity professionals use.
- OSINT Framework, a tool repository
- Nmap, a security scanner
- Recon-Ng, web recon available via GitHub
- Twint, a Twitter scraper available via GitHub
- Metagoofil for metadata extraction, available via GitHub
Cybersecurity is evolving, and OSINT arms organizations with the information they need to develop more effective cybersecurity strategies.
The BlackBerry Incident Response Team works with organizations of all sizes in every industry to evaluate and enhance their endpoint security posture and proactively maintain the security, integrity, and resilience of their network infrastructure. Whether you're under cyberattack, need to contain a breach, or want to develop an incident response plan, we can help.