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OSINT Tools and Techniques for Business Risk Intelligence

Alex Ciarniello May 12, 2020 OSINT, Information Security, Corporate Security

Investing in business risk intelligence (BRI) has its challenges. Companies are often confronted with budget or staffing constraints when it comes to supporting a robust program—and proponents of upgrading a business risk intelligence strategy can be faced with convincing stakeholders of its value.

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Open source intelligence (OSINT) tools are at the core of effective business risk management, helping companies make more informed and timely decisions around potential threats. If your company is re-evaluating its business risk plan, it’s crucial to understand how OSINT tools and techniques identify and address significant business risks.

What is Business Risk Intelligence?

Business risks include any events or threats that could cause financial loss or damage to an organization. Business risks are generally:

  • Financial
  • Compliance-related (violating industry regulations)
  • Strategic (disrupting business strategies and long-term plans)
  • Reputational
  • Operational (interrupting core operations)

OSINT techniques give organizations the open source information they need to make more informed business risk decisions, mitigate damage, and avoid loss altogether. This involves discovering relevant public information from online social networking sites, and harder-to-find networks on the deep and dark web.New call-to-action

Accessing OSINT for business risk isn’t just for large enterprises. Many public sector entities, such as law enforcement and public health organizations, benefit from business risk intelligence to evaluate public sentiment, assess cyber risks, investigate crime, and more. 

What do OSINT techniques for business risk intelligence look like in the real world?

4 Business Risks that OSINT Techniques Address

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1. Data Breaches and Cyber Threats

Data breaches and cyberattacks can cost companies millions and significantly affect their long-term operations and reputation. Breaches and cyber security risks that are detected early on cost significantly less—a fact to consider when most breaches take an average of 206 days to detect.

A number of unindexed web pages, including paste sites, dark web marketplaces and forums, are frequently used by threat actors to publicly post compromised data. Advanced OSINT techniques and tools allow organizations to safely access and search these sources for early breach indicators, such as company emails and passwords.

breaches beacon screengrab-1Breached data search results  discovered by searching a financial institution’s email domain using Beacon’s Breaches feature

Public forums and messaging apps on the deep and dark web are also used to anonymously discuss current cyberattack tools and techniques. These discussions are valuable for business risk plans, as they help security teams understand how threat actors operate. Accessing content about current risks, such as malware, ransomware, denial of service attacks, and fraud schemes, can help business risk teams raise their security profile.

2. Fraud

Anonymized forums, marketplaces, and public chat applications on the deep and dark web also enable fraudsters to openly discuss and sell their tools and techniques. These tend to focus primarily on financial fraud schemes, offering fraud tools such as fake bank statements, IDs, and how-to guides. This information is useful for financial institutions and insurance companies seeking open-source data about fraud activity implicating their organizations.

Public social media data can also help organizations and insurance companies investigate suspected fraud. If an employee files a claim for a workplace injury and then posts a YouTube video from a marathon they ran shortly after, this is information that your company’s risk management team wants to know about.

3. Physical Security

Intelligence supporting physical security is often what differentiates business risk intelligence from cyber threat intelligence. 

Social media platforms are useful OSINT sources for supporting strategies such as travel risk management, executive protection, and asset monitoring. Updates about an active threat, such as a natural disaster, active shooter, or robbery, often reach social media faster than any other source, directly from on-site witnesses. OSINT tools allow security teams to stay alerted in real time to relevant business risks tagged in a specific area, such as an HQ office, supply chain location, or an executive’s travel route.

streets saying active shooter twitter screengrabActive shooter alert discovered via Twitter using Echosec

Less-regulated social platforms are becoming more popular, especially among extremist communities that engage in hate speech and user radicalization. Identifying threatening content, such as active shooter references, also helps security teams predict or identify serious potential security risks to their businesses.

4. Business Operations and Brand Risks

Social media platforms, from mainstream networks like Twitter to niche platforms like Raddle, offer a wide variety of valuable data for assessing and mitigating business operations risks.

For example, news networks, customers, and stakeholders take to social media to communicate opinions and complaints about a company’s brand—whether they’re complaining about customer service, or reporting a failed crisis response in the aftermath of a breach or public health crisis. This information is essential for informing decisions that mitigate brand reputation risks, such as PR campaigns and crisis response strategies.

Companies expanding to new regions typically assess business risks by evaluating political, business, and customer climates there. Public social media data coming from a specific area, whether it’s across the country or across the world, is useful for assessing potential business risks abroad.

As we’re seeing with the COVID-19 pandemic, data about impacted business operations changes rapidly during a crisis. Social media also provides real-time updates to identify supply chain, staffing, and economic impacts from anywhere in the world.

fabric supply chain twitter screengrab
Supply chain update for a fabric factory in Guangzhou during the COVID-19 pandemic—discovered using Echosec

Investing in the Right OSINT Tools

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Accessing OSINT from social media and the deep and dark web isn’t a viable, efficient, or safe business risk intelligence solution without data discovery tools. These function like a specialized search engine, allowing users to aggregate and filter relevant content across multiple online networks to reduce noise and accelerate the process—whether they’re looking for breached data or on-site updates from a supply chain location in China.

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The Echosec Systems Platform allows users to search from the widest variety of data sources available in one platform. Users stay alerted to business risk intelligence applicable to their use case, and can search from a growing repository of over 10 billion leaked records in addition to social media, deep, and dark web sources. 

As mentioned earlier, compliance issues are a major business risk category. Ironically, using OSINT tools that overlook data providers’ terms of service or regional privacy laws can implicate companies in compliance risks they intend to avoid. Privacy considerations and industry compliance should always be a priority for any organization seeking OSINT tools and services for business risk intelligence.

Business risk intelligence tools rarely come in a one-size-fits-all solution. Every organization has unique needs when it comes to identifying and addressing business risks. But any effective strategy must deliver safe and efficient access to relevant OSINT—and support risk mitigation on a cyber, brand, and physical security level. 

Want to detect breaches, cyber threats, and location-based risks in the same platform? Contact us to find a solution that works for you.

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