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10 examples of OSINT used for good

Kameliya Nikolova
Posted by Kameliya Nikolova on Oct 22, 2020 9:30:56 AM

With the democratisation of OSINT, more and more ordinary people began using it. But did you know some of them have been able to forecast economic and geopolitical events and investigate crimes better than professionals? 


As people in all fields are becoming more familiar with OSINT methods and techniques, the tradecraft is used to aid many different research works. It's helping people make the world a better place by serving researchers, educators, forecasters, and those who want to make a change.

For this blog post, we've gathered 10 examples of OSINT in action. The common ground between these investigations is their use of open-source intelligence with the objective of helping and educating.  




  1. 1. Locate Centre for Missing People Investigations



Locate Centre for Missing People Investigations is a company dedicated to helping the families of missing people whose cases remain unsolved. They combine the competence of experienced investigators, data analysts, and open source experts. Their work consists of reviewing all available evidence and seeing if they can get any new leads on the cases. They have also developed a model that involves the help of local volunteers. Students from the universities of South Wales and Central Lancashire take part, too. The organisation has formed a talent development program to provide real-life experience to students and help them develop their skills.

This community grants resources to families, the general public, agencies as well as the police. They recognise police are under great pressure both internally and externally. However, their limited capacity is not always sufficient for a proper review of unsolved cases. That’s why the dedicated investigators and the volunteers review cases independently. They try to be objective and make sure that no measures to be taken were missed. Finally, they assist the flow of information between parties to help families get closure and hopefully reunite with their loved ones.
  1. 2. Trace Labs

Trace Labs is a not-for-profit organisation that has turned finding missing people into a Capture the Flag contest. “Helping people on the worst day of their lives” is their mission and they are employing a few approaches to make that happen.
Firstly, they are holding local and national contests in CTF format. OSINT enthusiasts with all levels of expertise take part in these to gather new leads on missing people cases. The global community of Trace Labs is also constantly working on crowdsourcing new intelligence. They are in collaboration with some law enforcement agencies who review the reports to take action for any cold or new cases.
Secondly, they believe in the power of education. That’s why they have made it a priority to educate their community. Trace Labs are working together with the best OSINT experts to provide proper training to their public and ensure more and better results.
Finally, their partnerships with law enforcement agencies intend to bring awareness. They are spreading the issue of missing people and are helping other non-profit organisations in the field.


3. Trace an Object

In 2017, Europol started the crowdsourcing project “Stop Child Abuse - Trace an object”. They own millions of pictures of child sexual abuse some of which have undergone all possible examinations and still provided no clues. That is precisely why this project aired. Out of the belief that more pairs of eyes can recognise small details that can turn out to be essential in the long run.
Censored information is often posted on their website for the public to review. Europol is usually looking for the country of origin or the approximate location of these clues so they could advance in their cases.
By far, more than 24 thousand people have submitted tips. That helped identify ten victims and prosecute two offenders.




  1. 4. Innocent Lives Foundation 

The Innocent Lives Foundation (ILF) is a nonprofit organisation with the mission to assert a change on behalf of sexually abused children. They fulfill their purpose to protect children online in a few ways.
Their team is formed by cybersecurity and technology experts who use online investigation to identify pedophiles, sexual predators, and human traffickers. What they do next is to provide law enforcement with that information and aid the prosecution of these criminals.
These crimes have an enormous impact on innocent lives and that fact is what keeps the project going. ILF is also providing some educational resources on how to make children aware of the risks and hopefully keep them safer.




  1. 5. Operation Safe Escape 

Domestic abuse is a widespread problem with horrendous consequences for its victims. The people behind Operation Safe Escape realise that and are striving to help.
Their program aims to aid the escape from the abuser. They are working in close collaboration with the victim and their support system to create an escape plan and make sure it’s carried out successfully.
What’s more, Operation Safe Escape is empowering people through education. They make sure that the escaped person is safe physically and digitally. They help victims stay protected online by teaching them privacy-focused practices.
The security and cybersecurity experts in the organisation deliver instructions on how to leave the least possible digital footprint. That is a must because it's crucial that the victim stays safe and undetectable as soon as they flee from their abuser.
  1. 6. Irdeto against wildlife crime 


Irdeto is a company focused on the cybersecurity of digital platforms. However, they’ve decided to partner with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) to fight another type of crime.
Illegal trade with wild animals’ parts is the fourth biggest illicit industry after drugs, counterfeit goods, and human trafficking. This is a low risk but high-profit business which kills animals, ruins ecosystems, and leaves people unemployed.
The African Wildlife Foundation has been trying so hard to find ways to preserve the wildlife. They’ve been equipping wildlife rangers, deploying sniffing dogs, training law enforcement, creating awareness and partnerships across the globe with the sole purpose of stopping wildlife crime. However, criminals still manage to find ways and go unbothered.
Irdeto’s cyber intelligence department employs OSINT to tackle this issue. They are using their capabilities to monitor the illegal trade of animal parts online to identify and locate the people behind them. Then law enforcement takes the wheel to do what needs to be done further.



  1. 7. The Good Judgement Project 



The Good Judgement Project is “harnessing the wisdom of the crowd” to help organisations make better decisions.
Almost a decade ago, three Pennsylvania University professors created The Good Judgement Project. They were namely Philip Tetlock, Don Moore, and Barbara Mellers.
In 2011 the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) launched The Aggregative Contingent Estimation (ACE). The goal was to identify the best methods for prediction of geopolitical events. The Good Judgement Project (GJP) turned out to be the most successful participant.
For the following four years of forecasting tournaments, the GJP outperformed every other competitor. They even got ahead of intelligence analysts with access to classified information.
During that time also emerged the so-called super forecasters, people particularly good at making predictions about future outcomes.
After the ACE tournaments ended, the Good Judgement Project went on with their activities. They recruit forecasters in search of the best and they cultivate and nurture their skills to turn them into a helpful part of society.
There are three important conditions for identifying superforecasters - training, teaming, and tracking. Bias, noise, and information are also taken into account when investigating the results.
Superforecasters excel at what they do because they are open-minded and treat forecasting as a skill to cultivate. Teaming such people together is also an important factor in their performance. Apart from that, their prediction-making process involves looking up open-source information on the internet.
There are about 260 superforecasters identified so far with hopefully many more to come in the future.
  1. 8. IHS Markit Conflict Monitor 



IHS Markit is an information company headquartered in London. They provide a bigger picture by delivering actionable insights to their clients and are operating in multiple sectors from education to retail and technology.


During the Syria civil war, they developed the Conflict Monitor project to provide their clients with a very granular situational awareness of developments on the ground. Using OSINT techniques, they monitor social media, events, armed actors as well as numerous other indicators. 

By systematically gathering and organising this information, they were able to provide media and national security clients with a granular mapping of the many belligerents’ activities and their evolution over time. In doing so, they were able to identify patterns and make accurate forecasts about the evolution of the conflict.

  1. 9. The cat killing murderer 



This one is the story of a group of OSINT enthusiasts who decided to bring justice to a few kittens. They went after Luka Magnotta, a Canadian citizen whose actions inspired one of the most popular Netflix crime documentaries in 2019.
It all started in 2010 when a man posted a graphic video of himself killing two kittens on Facebook. He then went on to upload two more but little did he know that he was already under investigation. Deanna Thompson and John Green had already created a Facebook group to look into the perpetrator. All members analysed the videos' details to identify him and gather more and more information.
That turned out to be extremely useful when the cat killer struck again but this time his victim was not an animal. He murdered and mutilated the body of the Chinese student Lin Jun and had it all recorded.
When the police came into the picture, the community of cat lovers had already gathered extensive intelligence on the criminal and provided them with leads to follow.
He was discovered in Europe in 2014 and is currently serving a life sentence.




10. Crowdsourced knowledge production  



Crowdsourcing is using the knowledge of many people on a certain issue to gather information. It is still debated whether crowdsourcing is helpful or harmful to the intelligence community. However, it is a fact that places for crowdsourcing exist on the internet and people are taking advantage of them. Some examples of crowdsourced knowledge available for anybody interested are the Fatal Encounters database, The Gun Violence Archive, and the subreddit RBI (Reddit Bureau of Investigations).
Fatal Encounters has a straightforward goal. To create a comprehensive and searchable database of all people killed during interactions with the police.
The gun violence archive is a complete archive of all violence that involved guns in the United States.
The Reddit Bureau of Investigation is another type of source. Instead of an archive or database for particular information, people in this subreddit can ask for anything and see what the community has to offer. The requests vary from geolocating images to asking for advice on dog’s strange behavior. What connects them all is that they are real-life problems. Solving them through the public’s knowledge is the reason for this subreddit to exist.




If you think we've left out other important causes or OSINT investigation examples worth sharing, don't hesitate to contact us at info@reknowledge.tech


We are also proud to announce that our solution to online research, the Digital Investigative Board, is now available for purchase. Click here to see how it might aid your research process. 

Topics: OSINT, reKnowledge

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