Two capabilities every OSINT analyst should have in their arsenal are the ability to blur graphic images while searching and during screenshotting, and blocking out sensitive content for analysis and reports.
For researchers, the internet is a treasure trove of information. But while hunting for clues and exploring hidden connections, analysts often come across webpages that contain sensitive, offensive and sometimes triggering images. These pictures may not be safe or appropriate to share with others on the team, and can cause severe distress and anxiety that affects analysts’ personal lives as well as their abilty to perform furture research.
Simply avoiding sensitive content is not a viable option — researchers often have to venture into sites that contain inappropriate or disturbing images (for instance, when reporting on armed conflicts or investigating crimes against children). And even if analysts try to dodge the exposure, sometimes they unwittingly stumble onto websites with pictures that they can’t unsee or content they would rather not share.
To protect online investigators and research analysts from exposure to graphic and sensitive content while still allowing them to gather and analyze the information, two capabilities are must-haves: automatic blurring of images and the option to block captured content during annotation.
Limit analysts’ exposure to graphic images while searching
Chrome’s Blur Image extension can be turned on before entering a URL that might contain graphic content, ensuring all images on the destination webpage are blurred out before they can be seen. This includes images in the center column of the screen, as well as images such as ads within side panels.
If an analyst wants to view a blurred image, they must hover over it with their cursor; once the cursor moves away from the picture, it appears blurred again. If a Blur mode is selected, all images within screenshots will also appear blurred (the webpage source and timestamp will also need to be included with the screenshot for analysis and evidentiary purposes). This way, information can be shared with the analyst’s team, and used for further analysis and reporting without exposing more people unnecessarily to graphic content.
Authentic8 includes the Blur extension in it’s purpose-built platform for sensitive online research. Learn how Silo for Research encompasses a suite of integrated tools to eliminate attribution risks during collection; automatically capture source and timestamp of screenshots; and simplify annotation to improve analysis and reporting. Read more >
Block sensitive content in annotation and reporting
Sensitive, inappropriate or downright horrific content is not limited to images. Disturbing descriptions, private details, profanity and slurs can appear as text on a webpage. Using filled shapes in annotation is an easy way to block such content in screenshots that will be used for analysis or reporting, protecting the reader from exposure.
See how to combine blur and block features in Silo for Research to limit analysts and consumers of their reports and intelligence products from undue exposure.
Accidents are still illegal
When researching sensitive subjects, analysts must tread carefully. Not only can an encounter with graphic images leave a lasting psychological impact, the act of viewing certain images, such as sites that exploit children, is considered illegal — even in case of accidental exposure.
It’s important to remember, having the proper tools in place to ensure research is compliant, auditable and follows chain of custody requirements are just as important as the tools to carry out the research.
Listen to author Eileen Ormsby describe the dangers of viewing “uncensored” materials on the dark web. From our NeedleStack podcast >
How Silo for Research can help
With Silo for Research, analysts can do more than gather information — they have the tools to dig deeper, create reports, build stronger cases and analyze data, even when dealing with distressing content.
With the Blur extension*, screenshot and annotation capabilities built in to a purpose-built online research platform, analysts can venture into the dark corners of the web without risking unnecessary exposure, malware infection or attribution. Researchers can safely capture evidence; annotate screenshots and highlight critical content; and share it with their teams and even law enforcement to help uncover criminal activity, expose fraud and report the truth, even on subjects that are hard to deal with.
To see for yourself how these tools can help your investigations, test drive Silo for Research in a 30-day free trial.
*Blur is a third-party extension integrated within Silo for Research that has been thoroughly vetted for security leaks and deemed safe and fit for use.