Getting the best out of Open-Source Intelligence ("OSINT")
By James Green*, Yossi Tal* and Dr. Nachum Shiloh
Companies spend millions of dollars a year on the acquisition and analysis of Open Source Intelligence.
These companies will understand the importance for actionable intelligence based on their sector, number of competitors, and market volatility.
The budgets for this OSINT are split over one or a combination of the following resources:
Information or Competitive Intelligence Officer/ Department within the company
Business Intelligence Systems or Competitive Intelligence tools
Outsourcing to an Intelligence/Investigation Company to provide this intelligence
In the current climate companies rely on Information Specialists or automated systems that state they can provide the intelligence needed for make actionable recommendations.
In reality they are not getting what they need; the raw data obtained is often lacking from the start and the analysis can be incorrect due to the lack of insight of the analyst.
The companies unfortunately are not aware of what they are missing. More importantly they are in danger of making the wrong decision based on badly interpreted information.
The three most important factors in getting the best out of OSINT are:
1) Knowing where to get the right information from.
2) What information needs to be filtered and drilled down on.
3) Having an Intelligence expert analyse this information to turn into actionable intelligence.
The Intelligence Expert (IE) is required to understand the need of the business unit to whom they are gathering and analysing intelligence in order to recommend a course of action.
Once the information has been collected the IE should be able to decide if this information is sufficient for creating a high resolution intelligence picture; and always needs to identify the gaps in the information and ascertain the importance of filling them.
“The absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence; nor is it evidence of presence”. - Donald Rumsfeld, (former US Secretary of Defense)”.
The collation and analysis of this information needs to be reviewed whilst paying particular focus to the meaning and implication gained from the research and analysis. This undertaking requires a higher level understanding of the nuances, cultural differences and industry specific awareness whilst considering and evaluating how these factors change and contribute to how the information obtained is analyzed. It is at this point where the information is turned into actionable intelligence. The IE who has been briefed, needs to evaluate what the various sources are saying, their reliability, how hat impacts on the business unit’s strategies and activities. This level and quality of intelligence in the hands of industry specialists can mean the difference between success and failure, this cannot be achieved by only looking at raw data or by an Information Specialist.
Open Source Intelligence in the “wrong hands” does not assist in making informed business decisions, and does more harm than good.
* James Green is the CEO of IRS - Intelligent Risk Solutions Ltd
* Yossi Tal is the Director of Intelligence Operations at IRS - Intelligent Risk Solutions Ltd