Intelligence: Foreign OSINT Poised to Pounce

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April 17, 2007: While the U.S. intelligence community officially recognized the importance of OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) back in 2004, there has not been a lot of enthusiasm for using this growing source of information.

The Internet has made OSINT a really, really huge source of useful intelligence. It's not just the millions of gigabytes of information that is placed on the net, but the even more voluminous masses of message board postings, blogs, emails and IMs (instant messaging) that reveal what the culture is currently thinking. It was corporate intelligence practitioners who alerted the government intel people to the growing usefulness of Internet based data. Corporations have developed, over the last few decades, a keen interest in gathering intel on competitors, new markets, and all manner of things that might affect them. The Internet has made this a much more useful exercise.

However, corporate intel specialists are concerned that government agencies, especially the CIA, are not taking sufficient advantage of OSINT. Part of the problem is cultural. The intelligence agencies have always been proud of their special intel tools, like spy satellites, electronic listening stations, and spy networks. Most of these things are unique to government intelligence operations. People who use this stuff tend to look down on a bunch of geeks who simply troll the web. Even when the geeks keep coming up with valuable stuff, they don't get no respect.

The fear is that, some foreign countries are exploiting OSINT more effectively than the United States. No foreign intel agency will admit to this, but there are indications that some nations are mining the Internet quite intensively, and effectively.

 


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