Think Like a Spy: How Open Source Intelligence Can Give You a Competitive Advantage

Open-source intelligence is a tool that provides organizations with a powerful vantage point to identify potential risks, track critical trends, and monitor competitor activities.

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By Devan Leos

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The realm of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is a labyrinth of information and insights that organizations can delve into to fortify their digital frontiers while keeping a close eye on the activities of their competitors. This is achieved by harvesting a cornucopia of publicly accessible data from the World Wide Web, social media platforms and other publicly accessible records.

By synergizing these various sources of information, organizations can gain an unprecedented perspective of the trends, patterns and perils in the digital domain. OSINT is not just a tool for information gathering but is a tool that provides organizations with a powerful vantage point to identify potential risks, track the movements of competitors and even uncover illicit activities. It also affords organizations an in-depth comprehension of their customer's needs and preferences.

Technique and craft

OSINT techniques include researching public records and documents, monitoring social media posts and conversations, conducting web searches and gathering intelligence from underground markets. By taking advantage of these techniques, cybersecurity professionals can proactively identify potential threats and weaknesses in their networks, helping to protect their networks and data.

Some specific techniques that are used to collect data from public sources include:

  • Search engine data harvesting
  • Web scraping
  • Social media monitoring
  • Data mining
  • Public records access

Related: Content Thieves Stealing and Posting Your Work As Their Own? Here's How to Deal With Them.

Search engine data harvesting

Search engine data harvesting involves using search terms to search for specific information within search engine results pages. This can be used to find publicly available personal/company records, news or research information. Some OSINT professionals also use google dorking or "query" searches to narrow their searches and find information not typically indexed by search engines.

Web scraping and data mining

Web scraping involves using a web crawler to collect data from websites, web applications or web APIs. This is useful for finding information that is not otherwise easily accessible or available to the public. This is typically done with a scraping or crawling bot. Web scraping also goes hand-in-hand with data mining, which analyzes large data sets to uncover hidden patterns, correlations and other insights. This can be used to understand better a person's behavior, preferences and trends.

Related: Social Media Data Mining: Tips to Increase Your ROI

Social media monitoring

Perhaps more on the side of virtual espionage, social media monitoring involves tracking conversations, content, and targets sharing activity on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. This provides valuable insight into what people are talking about and which topics are affiliated with them. Social media monitoring can provide lifestyle insights, location information or other data vital to an OSINT investigation.

Public records access

Public records access is an indispensable mechanism that opens the portals to an immense trove of data and information from public sources, endowing individuals with the capacity to obtain information such as court records, voting records, and other various legal records such as marriage and divorce certificates. Government/municipal public records are often a goldmine for OSINT professionals and investigative journalists.

Using Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is a vital mechanism for companies striving to remain at the forefront of the corporate arena. By procuring and evaluating publicly accessible information, businesses can unravel hidden gems of understanding about their industry and main competitors, thus empowering them to make enlightened decisions.

How can businesses succeed with OSINT?

OSINT allows businesses to delve into the depths of market intelligence, including tracking pricing fluctuations and gauging customer opinions. In addition, it provides a means for companies to keep a close eye on the actions of their competitors, such as keeping tabs on the introduction of new products, observing pricing tactics and scrutinizing customer feedback. Comprehending such information gives businesses a clearer perception of the market, helping them predict fluctuations in customer demands.

Moreover, OSINT facilitates businesses in deciding the most appropriate time to launch a new product or campaign or optimize the pricing of their current offerings. By closely monitoring industry trends and customer reviews, businesses can understand the needs of their customers and fine-tune their products accordingly.

OSINT also offers businesses a means of evaluating potential customers and partners and detecting potential security risks. Through the collection and examination of data sourced from social media, discussion forums and other online platforms, businesses can better safeguard their assets and information.

Related: 3 Reasons You Should Spy on Your Competition

Opening up opportunities with intelligence

OSINT holds an array of opportunities for businesses to exploit. From gaining market intelligence to evaluating potential customers and partners, OSINT equips businesses with the essential information required for success.

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is a tool with opportunities for organizations looking to enhance their security posture while staying ahead of the competition. So the question I leave you with is this:

Devan Leos

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Multi-Sector C-level Public Relations Expert

At age 10, Devan Leos started booking commercials for Microsoft and Target. After being the co-star lead for Mighty Med and hitting rock bottom, Leos decided to turn his life around and become an entrepreneur. Now, he's a C-level multi-sec Public Relations expert with 13 years in media.

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