Updating OSINT Cycles

In the wake of the information explosion and the dramatic changes in open-source intelligence we’ve experienced over the last decades, the traditional intelligence cycle used in OSINT is no longer adequate, some would say.  Here are some of the issues:

Information consumers are now also information producers, posting, blogging and tweeting with abandon.  It’s worth noting that an estimated 85% of all open source information used by OSINT professionals is equally available to your average Joe.

This situation has made source analysis a more critical part of the intelligence cycle; the need for fact-checking and validation is more important than ever.  What’s more, new kinds of sources are popping up every day.  Many of these sources require specialized technical skill.  Intelligence analysts are tasked with finding and using these new sources.

Information overflow can easily result in researchers getting lost in the endless piles of data which can be overwhelming.  Process is more important than ever for working efficiently and economically.

Arno Reuser, founder of the Dutch Open Source Intelligence Bureau with more than 30 years’ experience in information handling and processing, has written extensively on the subject of OSINT and its changing character.

He points out that while intelligence analysis is usually seen as a single step in the classic cycle, in fact analysis is done for almost every step.  And in his opinion that it’s time to change the term.  He proposes changes to our perspective on OSINT as well – for example, the notion that OSINT does not constitute real intelligence because it is non-classified.  Classification has to do with security and doesn’t rank the value of a piece of information.

Reuser has developed innovative techniques and models to handle all the changes he identifies in his profession.  Validation is so vital in today’s world that he believes that it deserves its own step in the cycle.  Similarly, given the size of data, and the tendency for information to be dumped on servers in a manner designed by IT and not OSINT professionals, he advocates for more robust indexing processes.  Process too deserves its own step in the cycle.

Recipient of the Global Intelligence Forum Golden Candle and other awards for his service, he will be presenting at Chameleon’s Offensive OSINT Course taking place in Amsterdam on December 12-13. Link here for more information and to register.

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