Open Source Intelligence

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Global enterprises are operating in the age of digital transformation. This has plenty of benefits for companies, helping improve customer experience, productivity, and resource management. But along with these benefits, wider technology adoption also means increasing opportunities for compromise. This stands true for almost any industry with an online presence—including finance, retail, and transportation, which make up some of the world’s most cyber-targeted industries. Digital transformation also affects physical security and cyber-enabled threats as criminals adopt anonymized online communication channels. What do these risks look like?

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Open Source Intelligence for Security

  • Counter-terrorism and Counter-Extremism: Foreign jihadist groups like the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda are no longer solely responsible for the threat of terrorism and extremism. Domestic extremist movements based on conspiracy theories, right-wing ideology, and discriminatory worldviews now also pose serious national security threats. 
     

  • Addressing misinformation and disinformation: National security threats have expanded to include online influence campaigns, which can compromise democratic processes and lead to real-world security risks. Disinformation (which is engineered to deliberately deceive) and misinformation (false information that is not necessarily spread with malicious intent) is widely prevalent online. Monitoring online spaces is crucial for tracking disinformation campaigns so governments can mitigate their impact and keep the public safer and more informed.
     

  • Cybersecurity: Breaching government data is financially and politically lucrative for lone-wolf attackers, organized hacking groups, and nation-state actors. Sophisticated technologies are available to a greater diversity of adversaries than ever before. Persistent online threats include breaches and cyber espionage targeting classified data, network attacks disrupting critical infrastructure, and botnets enabling malware attacks and information warfare. Paste sites, discussion forums, and marketplaces on the deep and dark web often provide early indicators of breaches, malware, and attack techniques. Combining this open-source data with other cybersecurity feeds helps intelligence teams more confidently predict, mitigate, and investigate cyber compromise.
     

  • Transportation Security: National transportation networks, including airports, seaports, and highways, make up a country’s critical infrastructure. When this infrastructure is compromised, governments and security teams need to stay prepared and alerted to prevent damage to assets, data, and human life. Online data plays a crucial role in providing the intelligence required for informed transportation security planning and incident response. For intelligence teams, social media networks and deep and dark web content can:
     

    • Provide the earliest alerts for location-based threats near airports, seaports, and other transportation hubs

    • Inform security teams about tactics used to bypass security systems or commit attacks, particularly at airports

    • Monitor for threats directly targeted at the security/public sector organizations themselves

    • Stay alert to vulnerable data that could compromise a transportation network’s digital or physical security
       

  • Addressing national and global crises: When a national crisis occurs, governments must make timely, informed decisions to protect their data, assets, and citizens. As we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, adversaries co-opt real-world events in their strategies. Whether it’s a natural disaster, public health crisis, or terrorist attack, intelligence teams need to know how and where the crisis is occurring and how to allocate response resources. Online spaces are often the earliest sources of information to provide this context—for example, social media users often post public updates and images from the scene of a crisis. Aligning this data with other feeds can help provide a faster and more informed response.

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