19.05.2020

OSINT Tools In The Employ
of Business And Governments


The scope of applicability of OSINT, which have been traditionally in demand by intelligence agencies, police and other law enforcement agencies, is rapidly expanding. This is due to two fundamental circumstances.
Firstly, social networks and other online services have become the usual means
of communication and are no longer limited to a narrow circle of initiates, but are available to most people. Secondly, the tools necessary have appeared for conducting automatic search and analysis in open sources and they are rapidly improving.
Similar processes have arisen in many other areas of information processing. As soon as sufficiently convenient, simple, and at the same time universal tools appear, the scope of applicability of the approach to implementing them expands rapidly. To realize the progress being made, it is enough to recall how text recognition tools and packages for electronic document management have changed workflows.
Such shifts usually affect all sectors, but each change takes its own path, changing the solution of both general functionalities and specific industry problems. It is important to note that what was done manually before, took a long time, was difficult and cumbersome, is now done with greater ease in a more accurate and faster manner, which allows people to considerably expand their lists of tasks.
Retail and Marketing
These changes are especially noticeable in marketing. Who are the people who buy my products and what do they really need? Since ancient times, these have been the main questions of any seller. The relevance of the analysis of the actions of buyers, both existing and potential, and the identification of their preferences does not fade away with the advent of new forms of sales.
These changes are especially noticeable in marketing. Who are the people who buy my products and what do they really need? Since ancient times, these have been the main questions of any seller. The relevance of the analysis of the actions of buyers, both existing and potential, and the identification of their preferences does not fade away with the advent of new forms of sales.
On the contrary, it only increases. The pandemic forced almost the entire retail industry to rebuild its operational infrastructure and switch to online sales. This shift only emphasized the need to analyze audiences through their online behavior. But if
a market trader simply monitors what shop visitors ogle at, what they are wearing, who they have come with and what they are already holding in their hands, then everything becomes more complicated in the online environment, although the principle is the same.
On the contrary, it only increases. The pandemic forced almost the entire retail industry to rebuild its operational infrastructure and switch to online sales. This shift only emphasized the need to analyze audiences through their online behavior. But if
a market trader simply monitors what shop visitors ogle at, what they are wearing, who they have come with and what they are already holding in their hands, then everything becomes more complicated in the online environment, although the principle is the same.
A lot of connections and huge masses of people, as well as the tools for analyzing their behavior, have appeared along with the internet. But they have not yet reached the industrial level of development. Online marketers are only just learning how to make
a client a truly unique offer that one cannot refuse. OSINT is an approach that can help them with this matter.
Two different tasks arise as a result. One has to understand the preferences and motives of each particular buyer, and, after knowing all of this, one must try to influence them. We can assume that the first customers of automated OSINT tools will
be boutiques, and it does not matter what they sell, as it is important that they have few customers, and their goods are expensive.
Another task is to influence the mass buyer. To do this, it is necessary to study the behavior of the current audience of the brand and monitor the general consumption trends. The real trends, not invented ones – and find those who really affect consumer behavior, and not only declare that they are able to do so. Fortunately, it is possible
to check the connections online and accurately establish the sequence of actions.
Classic cases can be found in the fashion retail industry. For instance, Meghan Markle puts on a coat from an affordable brand to a photo shoot of an official ceremony, and the next day the model of the coat is sold out from stock. The goods are sold out,
as those who wanted to buy it subscribed for weeks in advance. Such a situation is rare, but it is usually more difficult to track the impact it has. Marketing experts rely
on personal expertise, the ability to keep abreast, but it is automatic analysis tools that can help them systematically.
It is important to note that the retail industry usually evaluates the situation post-factum. The product has already been sold (or not sold) and we can attempt to understand why. At the same time, it would be much more important to understand which product will be sold (or not). To do this, it is desirable to identify an increase in interest at an early stage when people are just making a purchase decision. It is the sensitive tools for analyzing online behavior, remarks, images, links, and views of certain pages that can yield answers as a wave of demand starts. Or, on the contrary,
it is not worth it to spend resources on the matter. And the key point is understanding who starts the wave.
Most likely, the massive transition to online sales will trigger a surge of interest in tools that can focus on online advertising and increase its impact. Even in large social networks, targeting is still quite cumbersome and causes significant annoyance to users, though this could be avoided.
Retail in general, no matter which industry it is implemented in online, is constantly in the process of solving three problems: the retention of existing customers or reduction of their outflow, new sales to new customers, and an increase in the average check. Large retail chains have already established a rapid response mechanism to direct mentions in social networks, as this helps resolve conflicts, but does not allow them to see the big picture. There is specialized software and online services for analyzing customer reactions, but they do not solve all the problems, and by no means always in the most optimal way. Open source analysis can suggest new solutions and provide data and knowledge for further analysis.
Finance
We have already discussed some of the aspects of using OSINT tools in the financial industry and insurance (https://www.mtg-bi.com/blog/tpost/mmafsms05z-where...). Universal risk management and the search for relationships between customers and staff is no less valuable in these sectors than in any other. For example, in the organization of gambling, the operation of casinos and others. However, the internet and social networks provide other interesting opportunities.
Searching for debtors and determining their real locations becomes a completely solvable task, and a completely legitimate one. There are cases when Bellingcat investigations determined the positions of some offenders accurately to a separate building on the basis of a series of photos in Instagram. The offenders posted the photos themselves and boasted of their elusiveness. If we conduct this analysis manually, it takes a lot of time and requires experts. The use of an automatic tool makes searching faster and much easier.
A more general task is the analysis of human behavior that can bring a lot of benefit
to both the financial and insurance businesses. There is a known case when a young woman was deprived of insurance medical benefits, because according to the documents, she suffered from severe depression, and at the same time, she posted in her social networks photos of herself lying on the beaches, brimming with joy and smiling.
An analysis of real solvency can and should be based not only on officially collected documents. Social networks have been and remain a global vanity fair as people post photos and descriptions of their cars, mansions, travels and people dear to their hearts. A careful examination of all this helps a lot in investigating corruption cases, but will be useful in analyzing solvency in the broadest sense.
Analysis of a photo in the spirit of "I'm on the beach near my bungalow" and comments on it can tell a lot about the reputation of a hotel, the reputation of a company that sent the person on vacation, and the reputation of a region. The main thing is that it will be
a completely objective assessment. Masses of data needed to draw conclusions on the basis of statistically significant data, and it is provided by automated search tools. The assessment of the successes and failures of competitors, and the assessment of the reputation of the tourism business can greatly benefit from the use of OSINT.
On the other hand, no one speaks as frankly about our real preferences as we do. Everything that traveling people really want is evident from their posts on social networks. Neither focus groups nor special surveys are needed in the form as was previously accepted, as now it is possible to draw meaningful conclusions based on publicly available information. However, there should be quite a lot of it and it should
be collected according to certain rules.
Brand Monitoring
Airline companies are another beneficiary of the analysis of the posts of the kind
"I am on the beach", "I am skiing", "I am with a glass of wine on the hotel terrace". People readily write not only about where they lived, but also how they got there.
The reputation of the airline requires monitoring and study, both of its own and the reputations of the competitors.
Large companies constantly conduct surveys of their frequently flying passengers on how they evaluate the level of service and how they rank the services provided in comparison with other carriers. A significant part of such an analysis can be performed without calling people and without polling, since all the necessary data is already online. All that remains is to automatically collect it.
Mass analysis can help identify large corporate clients, areas that they may
be interested in, and the types of additional services that they will appreciate.
Mass Media
If transport companies like HORECA and retail companies analyze customers in order to sell them more of their services, the media analyze their readers and viewers in order to "sell them themselves", to sell the reader interest and attention. In order to reasonably set conditions, it would be valuable to know not just the "number of impressions", "the number of views", but also who exactly watched, read, listened to, and what kind of content.
Since not only retail, but all types of broadcasting are rapidly making the transition
to online, this is becoming extremely important. Until now, selling advertising on online resources looks like a kind of medieval craft, where most of the parameters are taken "for general reasons". There is insufficient numerical data and there is almost no concrete evidence that "our audience is our customers". In the online department, this can be proved directly, but not manually, of course, as adequate tools are needed. Moreover, it is possible to prove the solvency of readers and viewers, demonstrate their interests, hobbies, travel routes, hobbies or musical preferences, thus creating the most complete, and most importantly – reliable portrait of the consumer.
For the media themselves, for the most part having lost the advertising budgets of print media, the task of changing the business model is acute. One of the recognized trends is the development of paid individual content, the formation of a unique "feed"
of materials for each reader. The analysis of open sources can help in guessing what will be demanded by readers.
The state, or rather its authorities, were pioneers in the use of OSINT. Years later, when the tools of this class became popular in many business sectors, many government agencies, services and organizations are starting to consider OSINT from a new angle. In an effort to increase their effectiveness, public services in many countries are guided by the managerial achievements of commercial companies, adopting the best management practices, working with personnel, and organizing processes. In particular, they pay attention to suitable IT tools that allow them to automate many operations previously that were performed only manually.
Governments
OSINT tools are gradually entering into use by governments, not only on the level
of security services, but also in other functional units for the same purpose as the businesses employ them for. It is also important for public servants to know what people really think about them, how successful or unsuccessful their work is, how effective are the decisions made by them, and how efficient are the work processes established by them.
Such assessments of public opinion make it possible to identify malfunctions, correct errors and prevent their recurrence. Like businesses, public administrations use the information obtained through OSINT to increase their own effectiveness, because citizens need it.
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