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This week in open-source intelligence (OSINT) news, using OSINT to help bring war criminals to justice, the importance of fact-checking to decipher the truth about what’s happening in conflict zones, and where foreign spies can find good sales on sensitive personal information for the U.S. military personnel.
This is the OSINT news of the week:
Truth Hounds seek justice for crime victims in Ukraine
Truth Hounds, an organization committed to daily open-source monitoring and registering of incidents that could amount to war crimes, has recently filed a case with German Federal prosecutors, requesting an investigation into crimes committed in Ukraine under the principle of universal jurisdiction. The case focuses on the commanders of Russian ground forces who unlawfully detained, tortured, and executed four men in the Kharkiv region during their occupation of the area.
In her interview with Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), Kateryna Mitieva, Truth Hounds’ Head of Communications, explains how they build cases against alleged war criminals, liaise with foreign investigative bodies, and the role that OSINT plays in their investigations – from determining the suspects’ identities to analyzing eyewitness and survivor testimonies, digital tracking, and satellite imagery examination.
“It is extremely difficult for Ukrainian investigative bodies to collect evidence and investigate all incidents on their own. Therefore, only in cooperation with NGOs and foreign and international investigative bodies, is it doable to collect a complete evidence base and to build criminal proceedings to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.”— Kateryna Mitieva, Head of Communications, Truth Hounds
OSINT offers eyes on the ground in conflict zones, but telling fact from fiction is becoming harder
They are calling it Open Season for OSINT – social media is awash with amateur analysts, eyewitnesses, and influencers reporting of what’s happening in conflict zones – from Israel to Ukraine – while experts, reporters, and investigators are trying to make sense of what they are seeing and interpret the photographic and video evidence to decipher the truth.
With many conflicting versions of the key events, like the explosion at the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza, it’s becoming more and more difficult to verify the authenticity and accuracy of information. And with so many people turning to social media as their main source of news, the work of fact-checkers like the non-profit Bellingcat, is becoming increasingly important. Academic institutions in cooperation with the United Nations, are attempting to offer guidance to OSINT collectors to ensure that their evidence is complete, accurate and follows the ethical principles of journalistic work – in hope that data collected from publicly available sources can be accepted in courts, including when prosecuting war crimes.
“The main problem is verifying the information and making sure it is reliable, professional and not biased.”— Dr. Nimrod Kozlovski, cyber expert and lecturer at Tel Aviv University
Military PII for sale
A study published by Duke University researchers shows just how easy (and cheap!) it is to buy sensitive personal information like home addresses and health records of thousands of active-duty U.S. military personnel.
U.S. officials and outside experts have long been aware of the danger of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) leaks posing a risk to national security – a foreign intelligence service, for example, could build a picture of the whereabouts and vulnerabilities of the U.S. military members simply by shopping for the information online. Scammers could also use the data to stalk or blackmail military families. Despite bans on deployed personnel using fitness trackers and proposed legislation to impose restrictions on data brokers, the problem of personal data being sold online remains a serious issue, and the Duke study helps highlight the potential security threat and the need to address it with permanent and effective measures.
“There is a large and growing amount of commercially available information, which raises concerns on privacy interests, civil liberties interests, national security implications, threats to service members from our adversaries, and operational security risks.”— Timothy Gorman, a spokesperson for the Office of the Secretary of Defense
Every other week, we collect OSINT news from around the world. We’re also gathering information on cyberthreats, federal intelligence strategies and much more. Find us on Twitter @Authentic8 and share the OSINT news you’re keeping up with.
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