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What Law Enforcement Can Learn from OSINT Use in The Russia-Ukraine Conflict

March 21, 2023

Documenting the Russia-Ukraine Conflict Through OSINT

Open-source intelligence (OSINT) has played a valuable role in the current Russia-Ukraine conflict. It has helped understand troop movements, document atrocities committed against the Ukrainian people, and track casualties.

For example, hours before Vladimir Putin officially declared the start of his “special military operation”, a team from California’s Middlebury Institute of International Studies, led by Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, noticed a traffic jam on Google Maps a traffic jam at 3:15 A.M. near the Russian-Ukrainian border. Civilians were getting stuck in traffic behind military vehicles that were starting to move into the Ukraine.

For the past year, people on the ground–civilians and soldiers alike–have documented the war on social media and messaging apps. Images and videos posted to these public sources have been used by both sides of the conflict in order to carry-out military objectives. The social media platforms themselves have been militarized, with significant recruitment and propaganda campaigns openly taking place on them.

Applying OSINT Russia-Ukraine Conflict Methodology to Local Policing

On March 28, I will host an NW3C webinar to show how OSINT has been used to analyze activity related to the war. We will then focus on issues closer to home, like criminal investigations, natural disaster response, and situational awareness. Attendees will learn to apply many of the same principles used during the conflict to law enforcement operations and investigations.

Throughout the webinar, many practical OSINT tips and trick will be shared, especially for investigating TikTok and Telegram (but not only!), since these two platforms have been used the most during the war. Since Russia has tried to legitimize its aggression by building a false narrative around Ukraine through disinformation, we will also explore how to verify the information we collect.

The webinar will conclude with a brief demonstration of Cobwebs’ AI powered OSINT platform. The platform automatically collects and synthesizes data from many different sources so that the data can be analyzed and actionized (not sure that’s a real word but it should be!) easily by investigators and analysts.

Ultimately, my goal for the webinar is to show how OSINT can be used for good to protect our local communities from the crime and threats that surround us.

The Impact of Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) on the Russia/Ukraine Conflict will be held on March 28, from 1-2:00 PM. If you are in law enforcement, register here.


Stephen Lerner

Stephen is an intelligence team leader at Cobwebs Technologies. He trains clients around the world on the use of Cobweb’s proprietary open-source intelligence platforms, and on the field of OSINT and WEBINT in general. In particular, he enjoys researching the psychology of intelligence analysis.



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