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What is OSINT, and why is it important in 2024?

Fivecast CEO and Co-Founder, Dr. Brenton Cooper, defines open-source intelligence (OSINT) and outlines the OSINT trends and innovations supporting successful intelligence missions across the globe in 2024. 

Osint Defined

OSINT is coming of age and will become an even more important piece of the intelligence puzzle in 2024 and beyond. But, before I outline the trends and importance of OSINT, let’s go back to basics.  OSINT is the process of collecting, analyzing, and extracting meaningful insights from publicly available data sources across the Surface Web, the Deep Web, and the Dark Web and the many different data feeds, content and platforms that these support.  The growth of open-source data is exponential and will be for the foreseeable future. This growth, combined with the dynamic nature of the online world, drives the requirement for open-source intelligence to span across a diverse and broad range of data sources, including social media, search engines, news sites, marketplaces, forums, sanctions and watchlists, people and company databases, and more. As a result, it is now essential for intelligence teams – both government and corporate – to leverage technology innovations that automate not only data collection but also the analysis of multi-media content to progress intelligence missions and protect global communities.


OSINT Use Cases:

OSINT solutions, methodologies, and tradecraft are used for an increasingly diverse range of use cases spanning but not limited to:

OSINT Trends for 2024

The increasing prevalence and complexity of global threats and risks across law enforcement, defense, national, financial, and corporate security sectors demand more sophisticated and innovative intelligence solutions. Here are some of the trends and challenges we are seeing in the market that intelligence teams will need to be aware of and be able to address for successful intelligence strategies in 2024.

1. The Big Data Challenge

Here’s a stat for you that outlines the big data challenge – the total amount of online data created and consumed globally grew from 64 to 120 zettabytes between 2020 and 2023 and is forecast to reach 181 Zettabytes by 2025. Extracting valuable intelligence from open-source data is increasingly challenging  because of the constantly increasing volume, velocity, and variety of data available.

  • Data Volume – The reality of our increasingly online lives has resulted in a tsunami of data feeds being available for intelligence purposes. While this means potentially more useful data is available to analysts at their fingertips, it makes the task of monitoring and filtering data to identify what’s important extremely difficult and time-consuming.
  • Data Velocity – The warp speed at which topics of conversations arise, gain popularity and then die off again across platforms significantly increases the complexity of developing an intelligence picture.
  • Data Variety – The unlimited variety of images, videos, posts, quotes, texts, all in multiple languages and posted across increasingly diverse and constantly changing platforms adds serious complexity to the challenge.

Given this perfect storm of data growth, intelligence teams require access to a broad range of data sources across all corners of the worldwide web combined with the ability to quickly filter and correlate these different data sources to deliver the insights required to address complex intelligence use cases.



2. the ROLE OF AI in OSINT

Open-source data collection and analysis is now a task beyond human scale. The processes supporting open-source intelligence must be automated and increasingly enhanced with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to support the collection, monitoring, and analysis of masses of structured and unstructured data.

While AI and machine learning are now essential components of any open-source intelligence solution, they are being applied in new and innovative ways to identify risk.  Customizable risk detector frameworks that apply AI across masses of multi-media data and learn and increase capabilities over time help to quickly zero in on the most valuable content. The use of AI and machine learning in OSINT needs to be designed and deployed within an ethical and responsible framework that focuses on bias minimization and explainability of AI and machine learning outputs.



3. Greater emphasis on data privacy and security

As the use of OSINT continues to grow, it is essential to prioritize data privacy and security. While the information collected is publicly available on the target platform, it is crucial that the collection and handling of publicly available information comply with legislative and policy requirements. This ensures that the data is collected and used ethically and responsibly.

Data collection should also be proportionate and targeted to ensure its relevance to the mission without drawing in masses of unrelated ‘noise.’ Keeping data secure, restricting access, and maintaining data integrity are all essential considerations when conducting OSINT investigations.



4. Change Detection and Trend Analysis

Change detection and trend analysis are critical in making sense of the data tsunami. By deploying scalable data collection techniques that are ongoing, repeatable, and consistent, analysts can gain valuable insights into changing narratives, movements, groups and threat actors and identify trends and changes that may be an indicator of risk.   Many of our customers are leveraging our curated datasets to establish foundational networks that are then enhanced by ongoing, automated data collection and analysis for ongoing investigations.

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5. osint data fusion

In light of the volume of data discussed above, the ability to access, filter and correlate data across many different online platforms to form an enriched intelligence picture not available from a single data source is a game-changer. Network analysis capabilities that link insights across masses of unrelated data points are proving essential in this regard. These features are essential in 2024 as the complexity of global threats continues to grow.

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Fivecast Osint solutions

Underpinning Fivecast’s market-leading open-source intelligence solutions is our broad and deep data collection which provides targeted access to critical intelligence across all corners of the Web, including news sites and search engines, people and company databases, mainstream and niche social media platforms, sanctions and watchlists, curated datasets, dark web sites and data leak databases.

Our OSINT product portfolio covers the end-to-end intelligence lifecycle, combining targeted and deep open-source data collection with intuitive AI enabled risk analytics to hyper enable your analyst team.

In 2024, the team at Fivecast will be drawing on the above insights and more to continue to help our global customers and partners leverage the latest OSINT innovations that are enabling a safer world.  For more information or to request a customized demo, contact us at: