The role of the modern security professional is becoming more and more complex, and it’s no surprise considering the influx of unexpected places where threats are beginning to surface. In order to gain the upper hand, your strategy must include a diverse means of gathering intelligence, both for a predictive and reactive approach. In an era where content is being created at an exponential rate - 90% of the world’s data was created in the last 2 years alone - the future of security must be intelligence-led.
A major source of intelligence that cannot be overlooked is the vast amount of data being produced by consumers, hackers, newsmakers, and bloggers every single day. Globally, almost every person and organization is communicating across multiple platforms and networks, as well as handling personal and corporate needs virtually - such as shopping, travel planning, and data management. Finding like-minded communities and audiences online is the goal; however, wherever you have people congregating, especially if there is potential for monetary gain, the risk of malignant behaviour increases. Enter: Open source threat intelligence.
Open source intelligence, or OSINT, refers to the process of gathering information from public, legal data sources to serve a specific function. Some open sources might include social media, blogs, news, and the dark web.
The concept of OSINT very basically works like this:
Public information exists → data is gathered → information is analyzed for intelligence.
The purpose of seeking information from public data varies on the type of insights you wish to gather. Many industries and professionals look to open sources to uncover workplace security threats, protect executives, prevent loss, manage assets, gauge brand sentiment, and monitor conversations for creating marketing strategies. Public safety and defense professionals use certain types of OSINT for investigations, prosecution, evidence gathering, and events monitoring.
Note: it's very important that your data provider is compliant with all privacy laws learn more here.
Finished intelligence, or cooked data, is raw data that has undergone processing to gain context and become actionable. The collection, processing, and analysis of raw data are the threat intelligence lifecycle’s foundational steps.
In other words, raw data is unaltered from its original source. This could look like a network’s traffic data logs, dark web discussions, or even public social media posts.
Specialized software can identify and separate entities within a data set (parsing), and organize and display those entities by category to glean meaning and avoid redundancies (normalizing). Data discovery software can also index raw data so that it’s quickly and easily searchable and filtered for relevancy.
On the flip side, finished intelligence would look like a report summarizing the context interpreted from relevant raw data points and a suggested security response.
Finished threat intelligence products and services allow organizations to skip the raw data collection and analysis steps, which tend to be more time-consuming. Those steps are instead supported by automation and machine learning capabilities, and/or third-party analyst teams.
The main goal of finished intelligence products is to operationalize the process so organizations can respond faster to active threats and invest less time and resources in gathering and contextualizing large volumes of raw data. The result is a finished intelligence report that the client can immediately act on. While expensive, finished intelligence solutions can be ideal for private sector organizations seeking a “comprehensive” security solution.
Access to these data sources is often free, but the true value lies in what can be analyzed and extracted from the data. Organizations using OSINT for threat intelligence require the ability to detect key information quickly and efficiently. They can do so by using a threat intelligence platform.
The vast amount of online data to sift through is overwhelming and with the complex ways today’s online threat actors are conducting themselves, the vulnerabilities to your organization continue to become more elusive. This data, when gathered and monitored effectively, can be extremely valuable for predicting, analyzing, and reviewing incidents at every stage of their occurrence. But where to begin?
What is Raw Data and Why National Security Depends on it
How to Build a Complete OSINT Strategy in 5 Steps
How Provider Compliance Protects Your Organization (and the Public)
How Echosec Systems Supports the Intelligence Cycle
Where you look for information depends on what you want to find. Performing a Google search is a simple form of OSINT, but when you are responsible for the safety and security of a particular person, place, or asset, you need to be casting a keen eye over multiple sources. Criminal behavior tends to be hidden, and it is unlikely a surface web search will take you there.
At Echosec, we have access to a broad range of sources between the open web and social media all the way into the deep and dark web. For a complete list of sources, contact us.
Open source threat intelligence can be an invaluable addition to your protocol when handling internal processes such as:
Financial industry: An overwhelming amount of financial crime and fraud activity occurs on the dark web. Banks and other financial institutions have a responsibility to protect both their customer’s personal information, and of course also have a vested interest in protecting themselves. Dark web intelligence tools can help discover issues before they become a larger problem.
Retail industry: Retail security teams working in loss prevention and asset protection are some of the most well-versed when it comes to the importance of open source data. Publicly available information can be gathered to discover a wide range of intelligence like individuals blatantly admitting to theft, tutorials on how to buy items with stolen cards, and how and where to steal from specific brands and buildings. Understanding the threat landscape through information gathering can also protect against active threats like dangerous persons, incidents and natural disasters.
Retail organizations are using open source intelligence for:
Defence and Public Safety: Some specific examples of how the defence and public safety sectors are using OSINT are to discover threats like:
The Top 4 Ways a Social Media Map Can Help in a Disaster
What is Hacking? How Does it Work?
Why Cyber Investigations are the New Focus for Law Enforcement
What is the Boogaloo? Why Fringe Networks are Critical for Addressing Domestic Terrorism
There are many OSINT tools on the market, both free and with costs associated. The truth is, not one intelligence tool is 100% effective as a standalone strategy. Rather, combining a selection of niche solutions to use in tandem is the best practice. Remember that the best OSINT tools will have a geographical element, giving a digital window to narrow down the data by specific locations. Refine your strategy and choose tools to develop a tech stack devoted to the specific needs of your organization.
Social media and dark web discovery: Echosec Systems.
Social media and discussion forum monitoring: Echosec is an open source threat intelligence and data aggregation platform that helps companies extract key information and gain situational awareness from publicly available information sources. Security teams use Echosec for predictive intelligence and real time issues management, as well as brand monitoring and post-incident review.
Read more about Echosec: Explore Echosec
Dark web and darknet intelligence: Beacon is a dark web discovery platform designed for threat intelligence. Beacon allows security teams to pull fully indexed data from deep and dark web sources such as Onion and Pastebin from their own browser (no Tor required). You can filter by the type of information you're looking for, like credit cards, drugs, email and other criteria.
Read more about Beacon: Explore Beacon
Email hacks: Have I Been Pwned? is a free online resource to check if your email address has been put at risk due to a data breach.
Twitter monitoring: TweetDeck allows you to view multiple timelines in one user view. TweetDeck allows a user to create specific filters such as specific activity and geographical locations.
Internet archives: Wayback Machine is an internet archive tool, like a library, of historical data. This tool allows the user to search the history of archived websites, metadata, text contents, and TV news captions.
Business is happening online, and today’s security strategy needs to be informed by the masses of public data being created every day. Gathering, filtering, and analyzing this information requires the advanced capabilities of specialized tools.
Both amateur and professional criminals are using sophisticated strategies and seemingly innocuous platforms to conduct illicit business. More and more media platforms are being infiltrated and used outside their intended purposes. Evolving threats require predictive and intelligence-led security strategies. Security teams must gather intelligence from every corner that they can. Open source threat intelligence software is essential for any enterprise using public data sources to inform their decision-making.
Not only can OSINT help protect against hidden intentional attacks such as information leaks, theft and fraud, but it also has the ability to gain real-time and location-based situational awareness to help protect people at work, at events, institutions or even the shopping mall. The right threat intelligence tools will give your security management team the upper hand.
Want to learn more about how the Echosec products can assist your open source data discovery strategy?
Reach out to our team for a demo.