globaleyez at GOSINTCON 2020
The first ever German Open Source Intelligence Conference (GOSINTCON) took place online on 22. November 2020. The conference brought together over 500 attendees from several economic sectors, including government, media, businesses, and research.
The key topic of the event was how OSINT (open source intelligence) is used by governments and businesses to strengthen the economy as a whole and protect against terrorism, cyber-attacks, and fraud. globaleyez’s very own Marija and Felix were attending the conference as well to deepen our knowledge on OSINT and get some new ideas on how to use it for brand protection.
What is OSINT
As defined by the US Department of Defense, “open source intelligence (OSINT) is intelligence that is produced from publicly available information and is collected, exploited, and disseminated in a timely manner to an appropriate audience for the purpose of addressing a specific intelligence requirement.”
In plain words, OSINT means any freely available intelligence that can be used for any purpose. While this seems easy enough, in today’s information overload, collecting and using OSINT is a lot harder than it looks at first glance.
For starters, the sheer size of information readily available at our fingertips is quite overwhelming by itself. In addition, if you have a general idea but aren’t sure what exactly you’re looking for, you could easily get lost in the vast amount of information both off- and online. And these are just a few examples that pose a challenge for professionals who aim to use OSINT for their organization’s purposes.
Luckily, there are open source tools that can assist you process and put OSINT to good use. For example, a well-known tool like Google Maps draws information from maps and satellites, then helps you find an address and guides you to it step-by-step. Or, the weather app on your smartphone collects data from meteorology services and lets you know what kind of weather you can expect in your neighborhood.
All this information is publicly available, but without the apps it wouldn’t be so easy to collect and use them. (Remember the rustling of a gigantic paper map as you desperately try to figure out which way to turn in an unfamiliar city?) Just like Google Maps guides you to the exact location you need to be in that exact moment, countless other OSINT tools can help you navigate your business towards the goals you need to reach at the moment.
The organizers of GOSINTCON have recognized the challenges and opportunities presented by OSINT and invited speakers to share their experience with attendees. Government analysts, IT professionals and journalists came together and discussed many interesting topics, like cyber crime, social media intelligence, and data collection.
Marija and Felix enjoyed the variety of topics and the presentations of experts who let people take a peek behind the curtain of OSINT, and provided an opportunity to look into the OSINT community and exchange views with other participants and organizers.
Charismatic experts shared their knowledge and even let people participate in an exciting and interactive way. Who wouldn’t want to try their hand at being a detective?
For example, a government analyst showed how the information gold mine called social media can be used to investigate potential terrorists. Another speaker, an investigative journalist explained in a very interactive presentation how geolocation tools can help determine where on Earth a picture or video was recorded.
Other speakers showed how OSINT can be used to fight white collar crime, and how to find due diligence on companies and their personnel across borders. Finally, Marija and Felix learned how OSINT tools helped detect a group of hackers from Vietnam breaking into BMW’s IT network.
OSINT for brand protection
As we can see, most of the presentations were very interesting to follow. But even from a brand protection point of view, Marija and Felix found the conference quite enriching.
Although we mostly use our own software, like traxster and infrimage, there are several OSINT tools that we could integrate into our workflow to make it even faster and more efficient.
For example, our online investigations (e.g. looking for counterfeiters) could be enhanced by tools like Mapillary, a global mapping app whose images are often more up-to-date than those of Google Street View. SunCalc, on the other hand, is another useful tool that can determine where a picture was taken. It uses the date of the picture and the position of the sun to calculate the exact location.
In today’s constantly changing environment, OSINT tools can help us create very precise brand protection solutions.
Other tools can help us analyze the metadata of files we uncover during test purchases or any of our other services. Data like that may lead us to the names and addresses of sellers who distribute counterfeit goods, or who sell a brand’s products unauthorized.
The main thing we learned from the conference is that OSINT can be a very useful area for brand protection. With the right tools, globaleyez can use this readily available information to detect grey marketers, counterfeiters, and even authorized vendors who disrespect the terms of their partnership agreements.
Contact us and find out how we can help you with your brand protection needs.
All in all, we got to know a number of interesting new tools and gained a lot of impressions and experience that we can and certainly will take into consideration for our work at globaleyez and the further development of our services.
In two exciting files, all conceivable facets of OSINT were illuminated along with practical insights and solutions. I am glad to have participated in this event and can say at this point that I can hardly wait for GOSINTCON 2021!