Open Source Intelligence And You
Have you ever thought about all of the information floating around online about you and your family? It’s a lot, really. This public information can be helpful for you to find out more about someone, but it also tells others about you. This is the double-edged sword of open source intelligence.
What is OSINT?
You might be wondering what is open source intelligence and why do we as the average family need to care about this? While this does sound like something from Burn Notice, it’s actually something real that we need to be aware of. There are tons of places people can go and find out information about us that we would rather them not know.
Open sourced intelligence (OSINT) is commonly defined as data and information that is available to the general public.
OSINT information is contained on the surface web. Let’s remember that the surface web is the level of the internet that anyone can access. These are websites like Google, social media, and the general places we all go to stalk the new guy at work. We all know where this information is found.
So we’re not spies, right? Why do we care about the information that’s out there about us? We’re law-abiding citizens who live normal lives after all.
I’ll tell you this; knowing what information is openly available about us and our children will raise our security awareness and protect our families. If we can know what other people can find out about us, we can be ready to stop scammers, thieves, and creeps.
What Can People Find Out About Me?
You might be wondering what is some of the information that people can get about you in just a few clicks.
Here are ten common pieces of information that people can find out about us with just a few clicks:
Your home address
Phone numbers - mobile and home numbers
Photos and videos
Social media accounts
Amazon Shopping lists
Real estate transactions and listings
For an even bigger list download The Secure Dad’s Guide to OSINT for Parents.
So how do people get this kind of information about us and who’s posting it online? Most of the information comes from data brokers. In simple terms, these are websites that legally buy your information from third parties and compile them all together to create enough information for someone to profile you without ever laying eyes on you.
People Search Sites
This is where people search sites compile their information on us. For a few dollars, people search sites will give you a ton of information on a person in just a few clicks. I really don’t like these sites, but they are legal and the information they have is legal to sell.
A good source of what a people search site can provide and how it’s done is https://www.whitepages.com/person. You can read for yourself all the ins and outs of how the site works.
But these sites also have to offer an opt-out. Meaning you can tell that company to remove your information for free. So I highly recommend you do that.
I Want Out!
Now there are tons of these people search sites out there and their opt-out process is different for each one. But there are companies that will work to remove that information for you for a fee. This might be money well spent for you.
One such company you can check out is DeleteMe by Abine. They remove information from sites like this and continue to monitor you year-round.
The Best Source for OSINT
While data brokers are trouble enough, the best source of information about you online comes from social media. Yep, that’s right. We’re telling on ourselves.
We are self-reporting on where we are, who we are with, where we work, and places we frequent. It’s like Preston Hocker told us in his interview about being a private investigator, it’s like some people want to be found when they post on social media.
Here are some questions I want you to ask yourself before you post online again:
Is what we are sharing too personal?
Could someone figure out where I live with this post?
Am I sharing too much about my children?
Will my post age well?
Does anyone really care?
We all need to remember that last question. I know I think about this one a lot and I think it would help many of us feel better if we just kept our personal feelings… well personal.
The Social Media Account You Overlook
Now you might have your Facebook and Instagram accounts locked down and that’s good. But what about your professional LinkedIn account? People overlook LinkedIn all the time because it’s not really a fun social media platform. (There, I said it. We were all thinking it.)
On LinkedIn people try to give as much information as possible about themselves to appeal to recruiters but the downside is that we are giving away a lot of personal information to anyone.
So do an audit of your LinkedIn account and ask yourself if you're giving away too much information.
The Government and Public Information
But there is some information out there about us that we can’t do anything about and that’s what the US government has deemed public information. Generally, we can’t ask our federal and local governments to remove our public records.
And just because your county might not have a great online database, public records are still accessible in person at government offices.
This means as much as we try, we can’t completely remove all of our public information from the internet.
Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that open source intelligence is also found offline as well. (You know I don’t like to be remiss.) But what we do in public and the conclusions drawn from those actions are also open source intelligence.
So really all of the things I’ve been coaching you on since 2016 as part of personal safety and situational awareness is a part of the broad spectrum of open source intelligence.
We’re talking about saving your vacation pictures for social media until you get back home. Not leaving your phone unattended at a restaurant. Making sure you close your garage door is closed when you are away from home. We just need to keep in mind that what we do can be used as information about us and our families.
Open source intelligence really is a very broad topic. Trust me, you can really go down the rabbit hole with this one. For a better understanding, I want you to download The Secure Dad’s Guide to OSINT for Parents.
In this guide, you’ll find a lot more information on what’s out there about you. This will help you get your mind around what you need to do next. Plus I make some very compelling points about what we should do as parents to protect the future of our kids.