Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)

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.

1. Cost

Adding OSINT to your cybersecurity toolkit is free. Internet scraping tools and services are often very pricey. Attempting to gather information without the help of certain tools can be incredibly time-consuming. But OSINT is by nature open to everyone and freely available. That means you can leverage these valuable tools to discover vulnerabilities and find out what hackers know about your organization with zero overhead cost. 

2. Accessibility

Since the information found using OSINT is easily accessible online, it’s also totally shareable. Teams can easily collaborate on cybersecurity projects without needing credentials, authentication, and other security measures. Plus, there’s no fear about what can be sent over which platform. The information found on OSINT tools and websites can be legally shared with anyone. 

3. Flexibility

Organizations can use hundreds of OSINT tools to boost their ability to perform penetration testing, mitigate security breaches, and create more effective security strategies. The information gathered from investigating with OSINT tools can be used to create a unique security plan based on your personal or organizational footprint. It also supports continuous improvement by allowing teams to gather the most up-to-date information in real-time. 

OSINT Framework

OSINT Framework is the most extensive repository of OSINT tools businesses can use for information gathering and cybersecurity investigations. Resources are sorted into categories such as public records, images, archives, dark web, business records, people searches, and many more. Each category opens up a new set of options to narrow your search, bringing you to the intelligence source you need in just a few clicks. It’s an invaluable repository for organizations using OSINT for cybersecurity purposes. 

How to Use OSINT

OSINT tools hold a lot of information that businesses and individuals might not want to get around, but not all information gathering is used for malicious purposes. There are many use cases for OSINT and business data collection. Cybersecurity analysts, law enforcement, threat hunters, researchers, fraud investigators and many others can use OSINT to improve operations efficiency, security, and more. 


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. 

Risk Management

OSINT is useful for risk management professionals and fraud investigators. It allows them to manage intellectual property infringements, counterfeit product sales, and identify data loss incidents. The best way to use OSINT for risk management is in prevention. Teams can use OSINT to reduce their exposure to risk with a fully transparent view of its online activities. It also enables loss recovery efforts in phishing, due diligence investigations, and crypto laundering. 

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.

Targeted social engineering attacks pose a significant threat to organizations; OSINT can provide threat actors with the necessary information to perform effective phishing attacks and they can use OSINT to target employees with admin credentials. Then, they learn everything they can about them to carefully craft a convincing phishing scam, retrieve their credentials, and wreak havoc on your organization. 

Password Leaks

Ethical hackers and organizations use OSINT to learn about password leaks to prevent attacks, but cybercriminals use OSINT to use the leaded credentials to hack into networks and launch a coordinated attack. Gone are the days of brute-force entry. Now all cybercriminals have to do to get access to your login information is run a simple email search that will reveal any passwords that have been leaked.

Exposures and Vulnerabilities

OSINT can also reveal network information about an organization. For example, with DNS hacking, a cyberattacker locates the servers for a target domain with a simple DNS checker search. Then, they can easily execute a zone transfer if the server is misconfigured. Not only that, but the hacker will also have access to information to exploit network infrastructure vulnerabilities in exposed servers, devices, and applications. 


Here are some of the top OSINT tools cybersecurity professionals use.

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.