OSINT has lately become as much about public interest journalism and digital activism as intelligence. Its functions complement those of professional news media. When OSINT practitioners scrutinise online data, they can provide perspectives and facts about a conflict that are often invisible to reporters. It helps to penetrate the fog of war by establishing the truth about individual incidents occurring on the ground. Scrutinising each and every event is important for building overarching narratives about the success and legitimacy, especially as other parties seek to fabricate news.
OSINT is also defence in a war of information where falsehoods and a series of myths are created to justify and perpetuate aggression.
As social media companies suspend their services or have them shut down, there is a digital barricade of sorts being erected. Unchecked, this will entrench different realities on the borders of Europe in a way not seen since the end of the Cold War. In the 20th century, open-source agencies like BBC Monitoring helped peer behind the Iron Curtain. In this emerging context, OSINT will become harder but more significant.
The field has attracted controversy when it acts as investigator, judge, jury and executioner in the court of public opinion. Some open-source organisations receive government funding, and can appear more as activists than journalists. In OSINT, everything hinges on the credibility of the process and its results, so practitioners and governments will need to be wary of becoming too intertwined. Undoubtedly, though, OSINT is here to stay. It is a fast and flexible response to conflict that shortcuts existing bureaucratic processes of intelligence gathering and assessment, while simultaneously impacting the battlefield and the media narrative.
The UMBRA suite of threat intelligence, precrime, data security and predictive analytics is leading the way in connecting the dots in our ever increasingly fragmented, but ironically, inter-connected world. Separating what is genuine information versus propaganda is part of the package.
From The Shadows Emerges Knowledge