As more professions are using frameworks of OSINT without realizing it, open-source research may be more ubiquitous than you realize.

Let’s take a closer look at a definition of open-source intelligence (OSINT) collection, some not-so-well-known examples of OSINT in the workplace and resources to help further your skills no matter your experience level.

What is OSINT? 

The age-old question ‘What is OSINT?’ is still in debate today. As many OSINT experts, academics and researchers aren’t always on the same page about the true definition of open-source intelligence, it can be hard to classify what intelligence and research falls into this ambiguous category. To give some guidance and parameters to classifying open-source intelligence, Stephen Coulthart, director of the Open-Source Intelligence Lab (OSI Lab) at the University of Albany, went to work on a definition. Coulthart and his coworker saw this need to define open-source intelligence before opening the lab to set a strong foundation for its development. They define OSINT as “open-source intelligence which is legally obtained public or commercial information that has been validated, analyzed and disseminated to meet an intelligence requirement.”

This definition is primarily associated with those working in the U.S. intelligence community (IC), but that’s not always the case. Micah Hoffman, OSINT expert and practitioner, had made it his mission to educate those who had never heard the term “OSINT” but were already doing it. Without knowing the formal term or that there was even a name for the research they were doing, these inadvertent practitioners were cut off from available OSINT resources and tools. 

By educating people on what OSINT is and is not, the OSINT community grows and strengthens with more accessibility to OSINT education, training and tools. With this access to new information, OSINT practitioners can refine and streamline their processes for research and maybe even help other newcomers. They can also bring a more well-rounded perspective to OSINT from their various fields not often associated with OSINT, such as journalism and human resources.

Are you already doing OSINT? Probably 

Although many OSINT experts and practitioners may not agree on an exact definition of OSINT, almost all of them can agree that OSINT is being done across industries and in a wide array of roles. With a variety of uses for the collected intelligence, this data and information are collected, analyzed and used to make a multitude of decisions daily. Here are some of the many, many examples of OSINT across industries:

Law Enforcement

Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies can use OSINT to gather information on suspects and criminal activity. Whether tracking down leads or gathering evidence law enforcement conduct OSINT by monitoring social media accounts, online forums or other public sources.

Military Intelligence

The military uses OSINT to gather information on potential threats and to develop strategies for them. Potential adversaries could be found by monitoring news sources, social media or other public sources.


OSINT is extremely vital to journalism as many news stories rely on publicly available information. Journalists may use social media to track down sources, monitor public records or even analyze online data to identify trends. 

Corporate Security

Many companies use OSINT to collect intelligence on possible threats to their business. Researchers in the corporate space may look for information on competitors, potential risks and industry trends and patterns.


IT and cybersecurity professionals monitor online forums and the dark web for information on potential attacks, security threats, and other vulnerabilities. 


Financial institutions and decision-makers rely heavily on the latest news and information on potential investments. Using OSINT in finance may include monitoring news sources and social media for information on companies and markets as well as analyzing public data to identify emerging news or trends.

Human Resources

Gathering information on potential job candidates is a large part of the hiring process. HR professionals may search public sources to find and verify information on a candidate’s background and qualifications.

Competitive Intelligence

Similar to corporate security, corporations may monitor news sources, social media, and other public sources, for information on competitor strategies, product/service launches and industry trends.

Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

NPOs and NGOs monitor and analyze online data and public sources to collect information on public sentiment toward their cause. 

While this is not an exhaustive list (because if it were you would have probably stopped reading a long time ago), there are many similarities in the ways OSINT is used across industries, departments and jobs. So now you know what OSINT is, and that you may already be doing it. What now? 

With the right tools, education and resources, unknowing OSINT practitioners can streamline their research in the safest and most efficient and effective way possible. 

Honing your OSINT Tradecraft 

Stepping into anything new can be hard and without the right resources and people it can seem impossible. However, knowing where to look is half the battle. Here are the recommendations from an OSINT:

Get connected with the community. No matter what you’re researching, try talking to people conducting OSINT research from any industry and learn as much as you can about how they got their start and what they can teach you. There are also several online OSINT communities where you can find a diverse group of OSINT practitioners with knowledge, such as the Kase and Project Owl Discord communities.

Find tools and resources 

There are so many OSINT tools and resources that exist that it can be overwhelming to know which ones to pick. Here is a curated list from open-source expert, Micah Hoffman:

OSINT Curious Project

As OSINT was rising in popularity, Micah Hoffman saw many blog posts and articles that he deemed “lacked good analysis or substance.” In response to this, Micah and five of his counterparts sought to establish a solid technically accurate source and a free one-stop destination for OSINT analysis, resources and thought-provoking content. Thus, the OSINT Curious project was born. 

While the OSINT Curious project has retired its publishing, many of the resources developed by the organization will remain available including blogs, 10-minute Tip videos, interviews with OSINT experts, live streams and much more. The OSINT Curious Discord will also remain active for those interested in joining a community. These resources are available to anyone regardless of experience, skill level or geographic location. 


Another OSINT resource founded by Hoffman is Whether you are a beginner looking to start OSINT research or advanced in OSINT and looking for technical courses, the platform provides quality OSINT training for all experience levels. Many OSINT Curious alums also offer trainings.

What’s my name? app

Designed to help researchers, enumerates usernames across 600+ websites to make your research more efficient. This allows researchers to quickly find accounts associated with the same username, so analysts can build links and track the digital footprint of an individual.

Griffin Start Me Page

This start me page compiles resources from all the main OSINT experts. Griffin is a founding member of the OSINT Curious Project and puts together weekly resources relevant to researchers of all skill levels.

Find Micah Hoffman’s full interview and more episodes at or subscribe to the show to get episodes delivered straight to your inbox.

Stay Anonymous 

If you're searching for information or people online, you also need to be aware of the risks that come with that research. Your unique browser settings and digital fingerprint could be following you down the trail of breadcrumbs and leaving a path for someone to trace the research back to you. Many OSINT researchers rely on managed attribution to protect their identity, company and research. Plus a full-service tool like Silo for Research can help automate menial tasks so you can focus on the creative problem-solving aspects of collection and analysis.

Learn how Silo for Research could help protect and ease your process. Try it out for 30 days free.

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