Five Years in OSINT: Reflections on Professional Growth in a Fast-Changing Field

Have you ever heard people say, “if you know, you know; and if you don’t, you don’t"? OSINT (open-source intelligence) is kind of like that.

Before I started working at ShadowDragon in early 2019, I can't even imagine how the concept of OSINT would have ever crossed my radar. Armed with a background in real estate law but seeking a career outside the legal sector, I had little experience in computer science. But once I started diving into the many acronyms that make up my world now – API (application programming interface), PAI (publicly available information), etc. - I can’t believe how much I didn’t know.

Five years into my role at ShadowDragon, I find myself reflecting on the type of investigative work that is conducted using data derived from the internet; and things I wish every person knew.

publicly available information public sector social media pai osint investigations

What should people know about open-source intelligence?

Open-source intelligence (OSINT) has emerged as a powerful tool that allows individuals and organizations to gather information from publicly available sources. This information can be leveraged by both the public and private sectors to make informed decisions, identify potential threats and conduct investigations. In other words, OSINT is reshaping the way organizations tackle modern-day challenges, unearthing hidden insights and attributing actions to their sources.

As I delved deeper into my role, I learned that social media posts and profiles can be leveraged for investigative work, where I had primarily used these platforms to connect with family and friends from college or keep tabs on my local community. While I still view social media as a place to share photos of my dog or interesting meals that I eat, I quickly realized that these posts are all data points that can be leveraged to gain insight into a person.

Even for those who prioritize online operational security, we all have an online presence if we interact with the internet.

 

social media posts private sector social media profiles socialnet

What is it like working in OSINT when you're not a full-time investigator?

The best part of my job is working with our customers, individuals and organizations tackling modern-day problems that are often criminal and harmful in nature, and they are very candid about the way our tools, SocialNet, OIMonitor and MalNet to name a few, help them unmask malevolent actors. ShadowDragon capabilities help attribute bad actors that are orchestrating crimes, like massive credit card fraud, trafficking harmful opioids, creating child sexual abuse materials (CSAM), threatening acts of physical violence and more.

 

The Bottom Line

What started as a venture into unfamiliar terrain has transformed into a deep appreciation for the transformative power of OSINT. Social media, once a space for personal expression, is now a crucial battlefield for investigators, and each data point contributes to the bigger picture.

In an era where online interactions are ubiquitous, the importance of OSINT cannot be overstated. It has become an indispensable tool for navigating the complexities of our digital world and safeguarding against the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats. As we continue to harness the capabilities of OSINT, we pave the way for a more secure and informed future.

At ShadowDragon, we believe that, with a few ground rules and a good understanding of investigative fundamentals, anyone can get involved in OSINT. We’re currently hiring individuals that are as passionate about spreading OSINT for Good, as we are — if you’d like to learn more about our available positions, get in touch with our team today.

 

See also:

OSINT Investigator Training 101: Building a Foundation for Success

The History of Social Media You Forgot | ShadowDragon Podcast Clip

How to Scale Investigations Using Open-Source Intelligence

Open Source Intelligence Training - Learn #TheArtOfOSINT

Sandy MacKay

Sandy MacKay

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