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What Is OSINT and what are its benefits?

With OSINT, organizations can take an offensive cybersecurity stance and focus their resources only on the real threats.
two businessmen sitting in a modern office discussing cybersecurity
Article author
Written by
Peter Ticoalu
Published on
June 5, 2023
Last updated on
March 26, 2024

Information security is essential for businesses as well as our daily lives. The continuous increase in cybercrime and virtual espionage can disrupt business, private life, and society. 

Prominent cases of that happening all around the world include:

In light of the heightened cybercrime threat, integrating information security with the rest of the business is essential in keeping the enterprise from being hampered or exposed to high levels of risk. Many companies will need help finding a way to turn the tide.

It’s important to know that organizations cannot expect security procedures and technological controls alone to provide the right solution. Of course, it is paramount to implement such measures, but It is also essential to look ahead and take an offensive stance instead of only being defensive.

Data is king

Today, every established enterprise utilizes hundreds or more internal and customer-facing software applications. Every application generates and stores massive amounts of data that is often shared with other applications to keep them in sync. Collecting business data and recognizing data patterns play an increasingly prominent role in many businesses. Big data analytics is not just another trend. In general, for all companies, “Data is king.” And because the value of data assets is constantly growing, it simply must be appropriately secured. 

Similarly, a proactive gathering of data on threats is crucial in all modern information security strategies. With the right knowledge and web intelligence tools, obtaining this data is possible through meticulous internet research. Valuable information can be found on the dark web, social networks, and forums that cybercriminals use.

Introduction to Open Source INTelligence (OSINT)

As established, an offensive approach to information security is required in order to defend against ever-evolving threats successfully. OSINT tools are perfect examples of going on the offensive when it comes to information security.

OSINT is a systematic way of collecting, processing, and analyzing data from around the web to provide organizations with well-grounded insight into the activity of various online actors. Most cybercriminal activities are conducted online, and people who dabble in it discuss their methods, trends, and campaigns on social media and other, more obscure online communities. Data mining alone is not enough, but professional data analysis can improve any organization’s security. As of now, several prominent companies in the financial sector already use OSINT solutions to monitor cybercrime communities and learn about crucial developments.

Open Source Intelligence tools usually utilize “avatars,” which are online virtual entities that pretend to be individuals with realistic backgrounds, social media accounts, credible backstories, browsing behavior, and operational experience. Unlike humans, these avatars are capable of performing multiple tasks, such as collecting information from many different data sources, creating and building web footprints, and engaging with other users simultaneously.

Avatars are also used to actively participate in hacker communities. OSINT solutions enable companies to gather data on hackers who collect information about companies. Creating profiles of such individuals allows organizations to better understand their skills, knowledge, motivations, and what level of danger these people pose. Any OSINT tool should also be able to track selected targets (for example, hackers). This functionality enables security experts to better understand cybercriminals’ behavioral patterns and help companies mitigate imminent threats.

Role of information security officers

Open Source Intelligence has become another field of expertise in information technology security. Importantly, OSINT experts must be versed in digital investigation, as it requires continuous deep-web digging. But for infosec officers who use OSINT, the knowledge about current, new, and emerging threats is not enough. They also need a thorough understanding of the business they support, and the trust of the stakeholders, as decisions made in the boardroom routinely affect enterprise security.

Periodic review of information security strategy 

The more valuable your data, the more important being prepared and looking at what may come down the road becomes. It is critical that security professionals take a long-sighted stance and regularly review their infosec strategy to include insights gathered from web intelligence, security risk reports, and other sources.

Some organizations, such as the Information Security Forum (ISF), produce annual threat horizon reports with a high degree of accuracy. These reports provide a practical way to assess every organization’s information security strategy and determine what needs to change.

What are the top benefits of OSINT?

Increased visibility

Open Source Intelligence provides increased visibility across the threat landscape into existing threats and emerging cyber-attacks. By acquiring this knowledge and applying it to our client’s environment, we can reduce the risk of data loss, prevent or minimize disruption to business operations, and increase your understanding of the threat to help prevent future attacks.

Security breach prevention

Not only do security breaches cost organizations post-incident remediation and restoration, but they can also include fines, investigations, and lawsuits that frequently run in the millions of dollars. Arming our client Security Operations Center (SOC) and Incident Response teams with operational threat intelligence helps them make timely, informed decisions to prevent system downtime, thwart the theft of confidential data, protect your intellectual property, and save your organization’s reputation and customers (financial loss).

More efficient security

OSINT makes the security team incredibly more efficient and less prone to burnout from alert fatigue. Manually validating and correlating threat intelligence is time-consuming and resource-intensive. By integrating threat intelligence into client security infrastructure, we can help to lower security response times and cut down on false positives to allow your security team to focus on what matters.

Saving resources

Building off the previous points, threat intelligence can ultimately lower expenses and save business capital. An improved defensive posture informed by threat intelligence helps defend against persistent threats to mitigate the organization’s risk, lower response times, and maximize security investments. With resources focused on the real threats to business, companies are able to increase efficiencies in financial and human resources departaments.

You’re not alone

A lot of times, making your information security more offensive is a challenge that shouldn’t be faced alone. Lack of relevant cybersecurity expertise and workforce shortage are common obstacles for companies of all sizes. Maxima Consulting is ready to support your company’s information risk management needs. Take your first step towards proactive cybersecurity today - schedule a meeting via a contact form or message me on LinkedIn.

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