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This week in open-source intelligence (OSINT) news, a report on China’s investment in OSINT sheds light on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) strategies for potential future conflicts. On the humanitarian side, OSINT is also increasing awareness and action to fight against human rights abuses in Ukraine and elsewhere. In Russia, spacial intelligence looms large in the strategy for both Russia’s offensive tactics and Ukraine’s defense.

China bolstering OSINT strategy

According to a report by the threat intelligence company Recorded Future, China's intelligence agencies and companies are investing heavily in OSINT to collect publicly available data from the Pentagon, think tanks and private firms. The report highlights that Beijing's military can effectively use the collected information to help plan for potential conflicts with the United States. 

​​The report also suggests that China's investments in extensive data management, combined with publicly available sources, could significantly boost its intelligence-gathering efforts on the U.S. and its allies. The country's investment in OSINT indicates that it recognizes the need for alternative sources of information, as access to other forms of monitoring becomes increasingly restricted by the U.S. and other Western countries.

“As the relationship between the United States and China has become more adversarial, both countries are investing more in their intelligence collection capabilities.”

— Julian E. Barnes, The New York Times

OSINT & human rights  

The U.S. intelligence community has stepped up its efforts to document Russian atrocities in the Russia-Ukraine war. Evidence of concerted attacks on Ukrainian citizens, including a plot to kidnap Ukrainian children, came to light via American spy agencies. The Biden administration has disclosed that intelligence assets are watching Russian military actions closely. The latest escalations demonstrate the importance of OSINT in documenting human rights abuses, as it provides the necessary insight to understand and intervene in these situations.

Open-source intelligence has been used in the past to document human rights abuses, such as the ongoing Rohingya crisis, where satellite imagery showed the destructive impact of military operations on civilian communities. This evidence has been vital in increasing awareness and lobbying world leaders for action. It underpins the argument that in contemporary conflicts, OSINT is central to creating the momentum that leads to genuine international response.

“American spy agencies have gathered evidence that Russian commanders intentionally targeted civilian areas and planned to kidnap thousands of Ukrainian children.”

— Sarah Yager, Foreign Affairs

Spacial technology hovers over war efforts 

At the heart of Russia’s war strategy against Ukraine is the use of space technology. The Russian military effectively conducted a test of their anti-satellite weapons just before launching their all-out assault against Ukraine. This move was intended to disrupt communications and surveillance, giving them the advantage on the ground. 

The use of space technology in modern warfare is rapidly changing the face of intelligence gathering. Commercial geospatial imagers have played a critical role in the conflict, helping to identify Russian misdeeds and atrocities. Geospatial imagery, GPS satellites and cyberattacks on satellite communication providers are all becoming more prevalent in modern conflicts. 

Space technology is also being used for humanitarian purposes, providing invaluable information for organizations working to deliver aid to crisis zones. As the role of space technology in warfare continues to grow, it will become increasingly crucial for intelligence analysts, researchers, government and industry professionals to stay up-to-date with the latest developments.

“As the world’s first commercial space war grinds on, and sanctions enforcement against the Russian Federation continues to mount, the availability of private-sector geospatial imaging data sets remains paramount.”

— Benjamin Schmitt, CEPA

Every other week, we collect OSINT news from around the world. We continue to keep a close watch on Russia's war in Ukraine, especially on Twitter. We’re also gathering information on cyberthreats, federal intelligence strategies and much more. Find us on Twitter and share the OSINT news you’re keeping up with.
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