OSINT - Unlocking The Power Of Intelligence in 2024

13 min read
Last updated: Apr 22, 2024

OSINT- Unlocking The Power Of Intelligence

Imagine a cybersecurity attack in an organization. What is the first step in such a situation?

It is to gather intelligence on the target. This intelligence gathering is the primary step for red team activity or penetration testing. Information scraping from different sources comes under OSINT.

This article explores the power of open-source intelligence in detail. We’ll provide a quick overview of its history, differences from other information sources, uses, framework, tools, best practices, and others.

Table of Contents

What is OSINT?

It refers to the legal process of gathering information about an organization or a person from public and accessible sources. This information aims to answer a specific intelligence question. It covers the information present on the internet, books or reports in public libraries, press release statements, or newspaper articles.

The different types of information gathered from these sources in OSINT cover conferences, public speeches, webinars, videos, information in images, or general text-based content.

The essential two parts of this information intelligence are passive and active. Passive open-source collection refers to collecting information about a specific target using publicly available information. Hence, there is no communication or engagement with online individuals, such as following, friending, messaging, or commenting. It has a reduced risk of attribution.

Active open-source intelligence refers to constant engagement and is often considered an undercover operation for businesses. Here, the target is added as a friend on social media, and the actions include messaging, commenting, and liking the target’s posts. It may require special permission and have a high attribution risk.

A quick history of OSINT

The roots of OSINT lie in the intelligence activities conducted by the military and intelligence community. Earlier, information gathering was conducted through human sources (HUMINT) or electronic signals (SIGINT).

In the 1980s, open-source intelligence was added to gather intelligence. Slowly, security agencies started focusing on information collection to stay ahead of hackers.

The present use of this powerful intelligence focuses on intelligence gathering along with regular penetration testing. This helps reduce potential organizational risk before an attacker exploits the threat.

Difference between OSINT and other information sources

Open-source intelligence is different from other information sources in the following ways:

  • Uses advanced analytical techniques

The use of machine learning, natural language processing, and other analytical techniques are characteristic of OSINT. The other information sources focus on human analysis and interpretation.

  • Multiple source search

It involves information gathering from different sources like government reports, public records, news articles, and social media. The other information sources focus on specific sources only.

  • Focus on publicly and legally available information

It collects information that is publicly and legally available only. The other information sources obtain data from classified or confidential sources.


When looking to understand the uses of open-source intelligence, it is essential to focus on its use by defenders and hackers. Here are the essential uses for both:

  • How do defenders use OSINT?

Defenders, security teams, and penetration testers use OSINT to reveal public information about internal assets and other information outside the organization. Some helpful sources include leaked company information, IP addresses, configurations, unpatched software, and open ports.

Defenders get a chance to manage the information outside the organization. It covers social media content and vast amounts of relevant information. Company acquisition may result in the public availability of company information publicly. Further, the vendors and partners may share specific company IT details.

  • How do hackers use OSINT?

When it comes to hackers, it is easy for them to retrieve professional and personal information about employees on social networking sites. Employees with privileged access to company sources are the centre of the target for phishing attacks. LinkedIn is the right source if asked for the best network for gaining information from hackers, as it contains job titles and company structure details.

Hackers can use open-source intelligence for retrieving credentials, leaked information, unpatched assets, misconfigured cloud data stores, or open ports. Attackers get a chance to identify the embedded passwords and encryption keys in the developers’ codes who are not conscious of the security concerns in coding.

Top 30 OSINT Tools

Some of the valuable tools for completing your open-source intelligence task cover the following:

OSINT Framework

When searching for different OSINT tools, you may have to look for only feasible resources for some interested individuals.

OSINT framework possesses the right platform for a large collection of tools for different tasks, such as fetching email addresses, searching the dark web, or searching social media.

Hence, it brings a structured way of performing open-source intelligence tasks. Some of its key offerings are:

  • Username
  • Email Address
  • Domain Name
  • IP & MAC Address
  • Images/ Docs/ Videos
  • Social Networks
  • Instant Messaging
  • People Search Engines
  • Dating
  • Telephone Numbers
  • Public Records
  • Business Records
  • Transportation
  • Geolocation Tools/ Maps
  • Search Engines
  • Forums/ IRC/ Blogs
  • Archives
  • Language Translation
  • Metadata
  • Mobile Emulation
  • Terrorism
  • Dark Web
  • Digital Currency
  • Classifieds
  • Encoding/ Decoding
  • Tools
  • Malicious File Analysis
  • Exploits & Advisories
  • Threat Intelligence
  • OpSec
  • Documentation
  • Testing

Google Dorks

Coming to Google, Dorks offers the best opportunity to find a website’s search vulnerabilities. It can search for information for businesses, which is not different from surface searches. Using the different Google Dorks helps find stored documents or files.


It provides information about publicly accessible details, domains, companies, and people on the internet. It can discover large amounts of information and then plot it in easy-to-read charts and graphs. After completing the information gathering, Maltego can help in the investigation by making connections to unmask the hidden relationships between affiliations, document owners, websites, companies, email addresses, and names.


It is a dedicated free reconnaissance tool integrating multiple data sources for analyzing and gathering BTC addresses, ASNs, domains, subdomains, CIDR ranges, and IP addresses. It has more than 200 modules to discover all the required information about a specific target.


It is a leading OSINT tool that helps with the different technological stacks and platforms powering websites. Further, it can generate a detailed list of the known JavaScript/CSS libraries offering different plugins installed on frameworks, websites, and server information.


It is an ideal platform for starting research activities. It helps users make quick queries on the dark web without using other resources.


It quickly automates the time-consuming OSINT activities like cut and paste. It doesn’t collect data but facilitates using OSINT tools through its automation capabilities.


It is a wireless network security penetration testing tool with different functions. It can effectively perform packet monitoring, penetration testing, performance analysis, and password security testing. It is the first choice of penetration testers and system security managers to confirm transmission security.


It is a search engine dedicated to finding intelligence on different Internet of Things (IoT) devices. It can also find vulnerabilities and open ports on the targeted systems and examine the operational technology used in manufacturing facilities or power plants.

Search code

It is a specialized OSINT tool that focuses on gaining useful intelligence inside the source code. Many developers prefer Searchcode for locating sensitive information accessible inside the code.

Babel X

It is a popular multilingual search tool covering the dark web, news sites, message boards, social media, and blogs. It geo-locates the source of information and performs dedicated text analysis to identifythe relevant results.


It helps in searching different search engines for indicators of compromise (IOCs), Bitcoin wallet addresses, ASNs, hashes, URLs, domains, and IP addresses. Hence, it is used by professionals to save time by querying different online databases with a single click.


Ideally called the “most complete Internet assets registry,” it is the first choice of cybersecurity professionals. It collects publicly available data from IoT devices, servers, owners, and websites.

Intelligence X

It preserves the historic versions of the web pages and the complete leaked data sets. It is different from the Internet Archieve’s Wayback Machine when it comes to the type of content preservation. Security researchers, news reporters, political analysts, and intel gatherers extensively use some of its top offerings.


It helps in the quick search of the Git repositories. It is further useful in finding out the strings linked to the malicious GitHub Action, malware, vulnerable codes, or IOCs.


It finds out the public information existing outside of the business’ network. It uses information from leading search engines like Google, Bing, Exalead metadata engine, DNSdumpster, and Dogpile. The best part of this tool is that it can access different public sources without any special preparations.


It helps extract metadata from public documents. It can investigate different document formats, such as .pdf, .doc, .ppt, .xls, and others. Further, it helps find the paths of these publicly available documents.

Social Analyzer

It is the leading web app, CLI, and API for finding and analyzing an individual profile on social media and websites. This tool’s availability of different analysis and detection modules makes it easy for professionals to use it in different investigation processes. The information from this tool helps in investigating malicious or suspicious activities like spreading misinformation, cyberstalking, cyber grooming, or cyberbullying.


It helps in finding different social media accounts. Sherlock is widely used to access individuals’ usernames on various social media accounts.


It is an advanced OSINT tool that allows quick scanning of international phone numbers. It ensures you get basic information like country, carrier, line, and area. It also uses different methodologies to find the right VoIP provider and identify the owner. This tool works in collaboration with different scanners, which can be quickly configured to it.


It is a workflow engine designed for building and running a dedicated system on different targets, such as GitHub repositories, CIDRs, URLs, and other domains. It helps establish a solid foundation and is adaptable and functionally automatic, performing various tasks.


It is capable of performing network mapping of external asset discovery and attack surfaces. It uses open-source information for active reconnaissance techniques and information collection.


It is a popular and widely used penetration testing and vulnerability scanner tool. It helps find a system and discover information about different security components or methods of reaching a network. It then automatically copies data to implement a system breach.


It helps gather individuals’ social media information and establish their socioeconomic background in areas where it is difficult to find financial information. With the dedicated API calls, it is a highly scalable OSINT tool.


It is used in due diligence, crime analysis, financial analytics, and cyber threat intelligence. It is popular as a one-click application with single data points for accessing huge amounts of information. It can search more than 100 data sources and can help smooth the augmentation of manual investigations.


It offers an easy-to-use and effective method to check US citizen records. It can be used as a reverse email lookup, postal address lookup, and phone lookup tool. It is easy for professionals to go through several social network details, historical records, court deeds, and property deeds using Spokeo.

Have I Been Pwnd?

It helps discover the email addresses that appear in different data leaks. It can search entire domains in bulk and assists in finding the legitimacy and age of any email address.

Email Hippo

It covers several use cases like fraud prevention, marketing, and investigations, using different solutions like WHOIS, ASSESS, MORE, and CORE. It is a popular solution for gathering email intelligence.


It is a popular OSINT tool that offers quick information on searching for different usernames on more than 170 social media networks. It helps in searching individuals and businesses alike by finding the usage of the same username on various social media platforms.

SecurityTrails API

It lets you instantly access WHOIS data, IP information, associated domains, domain details, and historical records. Data retrieval is performed using a single HTTP request and can be quickly integrated with other applications for risk scoring, threat intelligence, and asset discovery.

OSINT Best Practices

The best practices to optimize the potential of OSINT tools are:

  • Following legal and ethical guidelines

Firstly, businesses need to ensure that all their OSINT initiatives are aligned with the legal and ethical guidelines.

  • Ensuring the quality and reliability

Businesses must focus on the overall quality and reliability of the intelligence gathered. This involves conducting regular assessments of processes and practices, verifying the credibility and accuracy of sources, and ensuring overall quality and reliability.

  • Creating a clear and comprehensive strategy

Businesses must adopt a clear and comprehensive strategy for starting the intelligence-gathering process. This strategy covers the dedicated objectives, goals, and priorities of the intelligence collection efforts and further clarifies the use of different tools, techniques, and sources.

  • Protecting the confidentiality and integrity

Once the intelligence is collected, the businesses need to focus on its protection. So, regular data backups, securing access to networks or systems, and data encryption can be adopted to protect the confidentiality and integrity of the OSINT.

  • Using different sources and techniques

Companies must focus on using different sources and techniques for collecting intelligence from other resources. It covers government reports, public records, news articles, and social media content.

Some prominent intelligence-gathering techniques cover machine learning and natural language processing.

Artificial Intelligence- Future of OSINT

Towards the end, the advancements in OSINT propose using artificial intelligence and machine learning to assist the research.

Several government agencies, intelligence agencies, and military organizations use artificial intelligence for data collection from different resources. It covers data from social media, identifying and combating terrorism, organized cybercrime, national security concerns, and analyzing false propaganda.

The use of AL and ML techniques helps improve the data collection and analysis phase. Further, these methods help improve the overall actionable insights from the data.


Hope everything is clear to our readers about open-source intelligence. It is easy to understand this intelligence-gathering process, its history, and key differences from the other information sources.

The key uses, tools, framework, best practices, and future of OSINT give a golden opportunity for the professionals to understand it in detail. With all this knowledge, it is easy for cyber security experts to stay ahead of the hackers in protecting their data.

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