Given the digital world we live in, and specifically the extensive uploading of posts, photos, and videos to social media channels, law enforcement has an interest in leveraging them to find information that can help investigations.

Scouring social networks for information is critical to effectively carrying out criminal investigations and taking cases forward since many include social media elements.

Criminals are increasingly using online solutions to carry out illegal activity and communication. As a result, investigations have become even more challenging on the one hand, while on the other also giving investigators a way of monitoring possible criminal activity.

After all, almost everyone leaves a social media digital footprint.

Law enforcement is able to infiltrate gangs that use popular platforms to communicate by posing as fellow gang members. That enables police to make connections and intercept criminal communications in real-time. Meanwhile, the tendency of some criminals to boast online enables police to track them down.

What is OSINT?

Hunting the various social media platforms for text, photos, and videos can provide digital evidence for investigations that is of great significance in moving cases forward. Known as Open-source intelligence (OSINT), it involves collecting and analyzing publicly available data or information that can be made available by request.

OSINT sources include:

  • newspapers
  • magazines
  • academic papers
  • published research
  • books, census data
  • telephone directories
  • court filings
  • arrest records
  • data on public trading
  • public surveys
  • media reports
  • social media and much more

Open-source data is mainly accessed via the open internet, but also through closed forums that are not indexed by search engines such as Google. Generally, users will not have access to most deep web content because it is behind a paywall or requires a login, but this is still regarded as being hosted in the public domain.

In addition to the content that people post to social media, there is also an extensive amount of personal information that is freely available. This includes names, dates of birth, telephone numbers, addresses, connections to family members and friends, and much more.

In addition, the file metadata from posts can provide information about where the user was located when a post was made, which type of device was used, and the name of the person who uploaded the file.

OSINT Challenges

The most significant challenge associated with OSINT is the reverse of its very benefit – finding a way to manage and make sense of the enormous volume of data collected.  It’s practically impossible for humans to search through vast amounts of information distributed across a range of platforms. That’s why agencies must have the means to automate data collection and analyze and map out the data to provide a visual representation.

OSINT software relies on machine learning and artificial intelligence for the collection of huge data volumes and to show links and patterns. It also provides the ability to determine which data sources to search. As a result, the system is not overwhelmed with irrelevant data, and agencies can collect key data and move investigations along at a faster pace.

Although publicly available data can be legally accessed and analyzed, investigators and analysts need to be aware that criminals are skilled at planting misleading or malevolent data to throw investigators off the path. Agencies must also be aware of ensuring they use data ethically to avoid the later possibility of being accused of exploiting, harassing, or harming innocent people.

Cellebrite OSINT Solutions

Cellebrite’s OSINT solutions help investigations to stay one step ahead with capabilities to collect and analyze publicly available information. When an identifier is entered, publicly available data is automatically collected, generating a detailed view or report that includes information from all layers of the web: dark, deep, and surface web.

Cellebrite OSINT for investigators empowers investigators to perform an automated and quick open-source search on a desired identifier, and generate a shareable intelligence report with stakeholders in just minutes.

Cellebrite OSINT for analysts enables flexible, comprehensive, and effective OSINT analysis for digital investigations. Collect and analyze huge amounts of unstructured data from all layers of the web, using AI analytics and advanced robots.

Find out how Cellebrite OSINT can help you solve cases quickly and efficiently here.

Share this post