Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.
Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) is the process of collecting information from publicly accessible sources. OSINT is different from research in that it applies the intelligence process to create customized knowledge that supports a specific decision by a specific individual or group. In the United States, OSINT is defined by Public Law 109-163 as intelligence “produced from publicly available information that is collected, exploited, and disseminated in a timely manner to an appropriate audience for the purpose of addressing a specific intelligence requirement”.
The Role of OSINT in Protective Intelligence
In the last decade, the use of OSINT has significantly increased. Despite its recognition as a best practice in corporate security operations, some executive protection (EP) agencies have yet to incorporate this capability into their protective operations. OSINT is a key component of a comprehensive approach to threat monitoring in protective operations.
OSINT services can offer valuable and timely insights into the behaviors, lifestyle, and mindset of a specific subject. This can include information such as their address, vehicle, identities of friends and associates, interests, plans, and posts related to weapons, extremist causes, and concerning sources of inspiration. When combined with threat monitoring, OSINT services can help identify individuals within groups who may pose a direct risk of violence.
The Significance of OSINT in Executive Protection
Incorporating an OSINT strategy is a crucial part of a client’s preventative security approach in executive protection. Threat actors are often not obvious. Individuals who target a company or its executives are not always known in advance. They operate online “in the shadows,” using anonymous profiles, avoiding engagement with branded content, and maintaining as much privacy as possible.
Targeted violence, the deliberate decision to physically harm or kill an individual, is often planned, emotionless, and predatory, in contrast to impulsive violence, which is reactionary with minimal advance planning. An unresolved grievance can escalate to an ideation that is researched and planned, prepared for, tested, and ultimately acted upon, often with tragic consequences.
The Function of an OSINT Team
An OSINT team understands how threat actors evolve. They examine the same publicly available information about their clients but do so through an investigative lens. They employ specialized methods to process and analyze data from open sources and find any relevant or actionable information.
OSINT plays a vital role in protective intelligence. It provides valuable insights into potential threats and assists in proactive threat monitoring. The use of OSINT in protective intelligence is a best practice that all executive protection agencies should adopt.
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