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IALEIA Conference Insights – OSINT Continues to Grow in Importance for Intelligence Analysis

June 7, 2023

Three Major Takeaways about OSINT from the IALEIA Conference

  1. Manual OSINT Still Dominates Analysts’ Time

One of the biggest takeaways from this conference was that law enforcement intelligence analysts and investigators continue to struggle with manual open-source intelligence gathering. While some utilize free tools, most are continuing to pull data directly from online platforms, making it difficult to piece disparate data together.

Several discussions we had with intelligence analysts focused on the time-consuming nature of manual open-source intelligence gathering and analysis. Analysts are spending too much time switching from one online site or app to an intelligence platform to find the relevant information they need.  Then they spend time collating that information and still must analyze it. This information gathering and collation takes up valuable time that could be devoted to the analysis of the data to help provide investigators with leads in their cases. Even more concerning is that many analysts who do spend hours performing manual searches still have an overwhelming feeling that they’re missing information or don’t have a comprehensive picture of an investigation.

  1. OSINT Must Be Integrated with Other Solutions

As an analyst, I long for the ability to layer data from different sources, which gives us a holistic view of an investigation. Many analysts lamented the issues they face with data housed in siloed systems that are not connected or accessible, or even worse, data stored in manual hand-written files. In addition to data storage and accessibility, there is an inability to quickly merge OSINT data with GIS data, RMS data and public records. OSINT data is typically not seen as a “spatial” data set, however, there is an untapped opportunity for comprehensive analysis of persons, places, crimes, and threats by layering data sources that are typically isolated in the analytical cycle. This is one reason why technology companies need to work together to make analysts’ workflow more efficient and successful.

  1. Police Leaders Need Ongoing Education about OSINT

Still, there must be a greater educational awareness push to help senior management in law enforcement agencies see that OSINT can enhance investigations and can be used for good. There are many law enforcement agencies that are not utilizing any form of OSINT in their day-to-day investigative process. Make no mistake – criminals are consistently evolving their use of the Internet to communicate and perpetrate crimes. This needs to change and intelligence analysts are leading that charge. Analysts mentioned that their push for OSINT tools is getting some traction since senior management are beginning to see the added value in saving time and uncovering leads quickly. Law enforcement must keep up or risk always being a step behind.

Law enforcement intelligence analysts cannot afford to stay stuck in time with manual approaches to intelligence gathering, collating and analysis that bog down investigative timelines. Adopting and integrating OSINT platforms into operations is crucial in modernizing police investigations. Agencies and their leadership must invest in this technology to help save lives and bring criminals to justice. By enhancing analysts’ abilities to conduct intelligence investigations, agencies can then make informed and data-driven decisions to help keep communities safe.

Christine Talley

Christine Talley CCIA served the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in southern California for four years, assigned to the human trafficking task force. Christine supported the investigative efforts of two teams battling sex and labor trafficking by focusing on subject identification and location, open source intelligence (OSINT) gathering and analysis, link analysis, call detail record analysis, and operational support. Through her work in counter-human trafficking and extensive training in OSINT, Christine has been fortunate to present OSINT techniques and mindset to law enforcement across the country and virtually around the world. She firmly believes in law enforcement’s need to harness the power of OSINT in criminal investigations, leading to the arrest of suspects and the recovery of victims. In her spare time, Christine serves as the Law Enforcement Lead for the National Child Protection Task Force (NCPTF). She holds a B.A. in Communications Studies from Vanderbilt University, completed her California DOJ Crime and Intelligence Analysis certification through the University of California Riverside, and is GIAC Open Source Intelligence Certified.

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