As I get numerous questions about OSINT in general and my job in particular, I figured I could just have a section on my website addressing the most frequently asked questions.
I am interested in a career in OSINT. How do I start?
OSINT, or Open Source Intelligence, is an umbrella term to refer to any intelligence gathered through open source. Within OSINT you have a wide range of specialties: GEOINT (geospatial intelligence), HUMINT (human intelligence), SOCMINT (social media intelligence), IMINT (image intelligence), among many (so many!) others.
OSINT techniques are used in a variety of fields such as cyber security, human rights, private investigation, etc. The first thing you need to figure out is what type of “OSINT” you want to do. What do you care about and what drives you?
Once you have made your decision, I would advise finding others that already work in that field and read their work, follow their social media, see what organisations they work for and check out their website. Job vacancies will have a list of the skills you are expected to have. Focus on obtaining them and demonstrating your knowledge. In OSINT everything is about evidence. Can you prove you have the skills you claim to have? Where can we see them? Create a blog, twitter threads, LinkedIn posts, videos, anything that is public and shows what you are capable of. Even if it is just a geolocation or OSINT exercise walkthrough it will also help you practice your writing skills. A very important skill that is often overlooked in the OSINT field is the report writing. A good analyst should be able to write engaging intelligence reports, explaining their analysis and findings, to a broad audience.
How can I get experience in OSINT then?
The world wide web is your oyster. You can find anything online. Focus on a topic of your choice and investigate. Start with a news article on a topic of your interest and look at the images. Can you geolocate them? Who is in the photo? Can you verify the information? Are the sources reliable? Challenge everything!
If you are just starting I would suggest checking the OSINT exercises I created. They all have a solution and video walkthrough where you can hear my process and explanation of how to solve each task.
What certifications do I need?
None. Anyone with an internet connection and the right motivation can become an OSINT analyst. There is no requirement for any qualification or certification. And yes, you can apply and be offered a position in a good organisation with literally zero professional experience in OSINT.
I have previously suggested someone for an OSINT role solely based on their Twitter feed. I did not know their name, gender, age, or professional background. I saw their work and said “we need them on our team”. They accepted the job offer and I am very happy to work with them.
In OSINT you need evidence. Show prospective employers what you got.
If I send you my CV will you look at it?
I am not part of the hiring team in my organisation and hold no power over who gets a job offer. I will share jobs adverts online but that’s the limit of my involvement. If you want to apply for a job please do so using the normal channels.
What exactly do you do?
I monitor specific areas of the globe for possible human rights violations and conflict related incidents. I focus on events involving terrorist attacks, assassinations, executions, torture, and violence towards civilians. I gather evidence, analyse the data and write and review intelligence reports. I also provide internal and external training sessions as required. Occasionally I am involved in various other projects as needed.
How do you deal with those sorts of topics? Does it not bother you?
When working with graphic content it is important to know your limits. Vicarious trauma is real and can do some serious damage. As a professional it is important to know where to draw the line and stop before it becomes too much. A good organisation will have policies in place to ensure their investigators’ mental well being. I am fortunate enough that where I work everyone is very serious about this and will step in if necessary.
What are the most important skills you need to have to work in OSINT?
You should be very good at finding data, verifying data, and analysing data, therefore critical thinking is an extremely valuable skill. Get used to really look at the information and pick up on important details and patterns. What do they tell you? Can you figure out the sequence of events? Does this information match the official statement regarding the incident? See what is not mentioned and mention what is not easily seen.
You will also need to have the ability to work completely on your own. Although you will likely be part of a team that can help if necessary, you will still be expected to produce intelligence reports without anyone micro managing your output. Your writing skills should therefore be good. If you can’t explain it, did you even understand it?
What is the best thing about the OSINT community?
There are some amazing people out there with skills that I never knew were even possible. You are all scary and I love it.
What is the worst thing about the OSINT community?
The constant “top x OSINT tools/tricks/websites” non-sense all over social media, and the money grab attempts. You are free to pay for training if you want but you can gain all your skills and get a job in OSINT without paying anyone a single cent. Some people out there feel very predatory. Be careful.
Should I read any books?
I will never say no to people reading books. Are OSINT books good? Maybe, I don’t really read them. The internet is in constant evolution and books become outdated very fast. I like blog entries though. If you write those feel free to send me the link, I would love to read it.
What is the best tool for …?
Google. The answer is 90% of the times Google. If it’s not Google you can find it on Google.
The tools I use more often are: Google, Google Maps, Google Earth Pro, TweetDeck, and YouTube (owned by Google). Keep it simple and become an expert on the most basic of tools.
Do you use AI in your work?
I have an AI tool on my computer and as a browser add-on. I mostly just use it to summarise long news articles and give me the highlights. It helps speed up the process when I am gathering and verifying pieces of information.
I represent / work for X organisation and would like to offer you a job.
Thank you, I am very flattered but I am very happy in my current position. I love my job and I love my colleagues. I have no reason to leave.
I really like your content. Can I use it for my course / training?
Yes, with two conditions. You need to give me credit for my work and link what you used to this website. My content will always be free and I want people to be able to access it without paying.
Can you provide training to my organisation / certification / course?
All those requests will have to go through the organisation I work for. I have zero free time for anything else at the moment so unless it is included in my working hours I won’t be able to help.
Will you create a course / book / whatever?
Very unlikely. I firmly believe that knowledge should be free. I am also aware that we live in a society that requires paying for stuff so as long as I have a paying job I am very happy to keep on producing free content online. It is unlikely I will ever create an online course or write a book. I rather keep doing what I have been doing so far, writing blog entries and creating OSINT exercises.
How can I support you then? Do you have patreon?
Thank you but there is no need to support me. I have a paying job. I do not have a patreon nor I have any plans to create one. I am not motivated by money. I also will never monetise my YouTube channel so it will always be ad / sponsor free. This means I can curse which is great!
Do you curse a lot?
Yes. Not much on my videos though. I did say “Putin is a dick” in one of my videos. I dare you to find it.
I have a podcast / YouTube channel / whatever and would like to interview you.
Thank you. I am very flattered but it is very unlikely that I will say yes. I like being the only one to edit my videos so that nothing can be misrepresented. I also don’t trust myself not to say something as a joke that can be taken out of context. My sense of humour will inevitably be my downfall.
I am a YouTube SEO expert and can increase your views and subscribers.
First of all, ouch! I get these way too often. What I am getting across is that my YouTube skills are rubbish which is fine. I am happy with my (limited) editing and SEO skills. I am not trying to make money of it, just produce good educational content. Thank you but I do not require your services.
I have seen a photo of your mouse on Twitter. Is that really your real mouse?
How does it work?
Like a normal mouse but the middle button makes it croak.
No, I’m messing with you.
Can I see a photo of you?
Can I message you?
Yes, I answer everyone. Even the weirdos. Please don’t be a weirdo.
How can I message you? There’s no contact form.
If you need to ask this perhaps OSINT is not for you.