What you will find below:
- Why use OSINT?
- How to use OSINT?
- Must Know: OSINT Search Operators
The digital revolution has exponentially increased OSINT capabilities with how much information is available in the cyber landscape. Instead of analysts sifting through stacks of paper to find valuable information, there is now a computer algorithm that can scan those documents and find the exact keyword we want it to look for.
Geospatial tools, Network-Based tools, and Visual Forensics are the most important technological applications we have available to us.
We won’t get to these tools in this article, but we will explore further advanced techniques for finding information on the internet.
You’ll be surprised by what you can uncover just by employing some basic search operators. Google is the tip of the iceberg, and using it like a pro will prove indispensable.
Why Use OSINT?
Source diversification becomes important as the search engine itself is a gateway to endless information and nearly an unlimited amount of platforms. It’s about accessing the sites that contain the information you are looking for, quicker. The advantage you have already is the personal information about the claimant. Let’s say you Google John Smith. How much different are your results going to be when you input John Smith, Nashville Tennessee? But let’s go further, John Smith, Nashville TN, Bridgestone. A few extra details will immediately take you in the direction you’re going for.
As of 2023, open-source intelligence (OSINT) makes up between 70 and 90 percent of all intelligence activities carried out by Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) and intelligence services in the West.
OSINT will uncover background info that can save you money:
Contextually however it doesn’t just have to be about the claimant directly. For example, you could find an online forum of people discussing the same injury as your claimant, where they go into greater detail about their experience, recovery, complications, etc. This could be enough
information to compare to your case to help determine if further investigation might be needed.
Evaluating the source’s credibility is another aspect of putting the pieces together. It’s kind of like sifting through gossip you hear at a neighborhood gathering. Let’s say that you’re investigating a fire claim and the story from the claimant is a bit too dramatic for your liking. They mention a rare electrical malfunction despite the initial examination suggesting otherwise. So instead of just googling the rarity of
such an event, you can cross-reference multiple reliable sources like fire department reports, building codes, and real industry expert opinions.
Lines of Business That Can Benefit From OSINT
Let’s discuss the uses your line of business can extract from open sources:
Hypothetical example: a worker who slips and falls and claims to have headaches and blurry vision that makes them unable to return to work. If this case were to be assigned to an SIU team – they have the AI tools available to comb the internet with everything relative to that person’s life at a humanly impossible speed. What might take me or you 2 days to find would take the right investigator equipped with algorithms and behavioral analysis tools that can read text, images, and videos in a matter of hours.
Commercial and Business Insurance Claims
Using Open-source intelligence tools can make it easier to gather relevant licenses and information that verifies if the claim should be paid out. In the past, general contracting services businesses have been found to offer services they did not have a license for.
Sample Case: The two-person landscaping business that your company insures has low premiums and for the most part considered low risk. However, when a claim is filed it would be beneficial to scour open sources for licenses, services offered, and other characteristics that can prove more dangerous services were being offered.
Property and Casualty Insurance
OSINT can be used to help investigate suspicions of claimants who might have damaged their own property to defraud an insurance company. This can be done through making connections between parties you aren’t aware of that might be complicit in the damage.
Similar to our previous examples, it traces back to understanding the person’s lifestyle, information related to their claim, and in health-related cases, if their injury is legitimate.
So using OSINT isn’t just about finding information, it’s about finding the right information. Let’s go over the open-source intelligence tools that will change the way you find information.
How to Use OSINT?
Use Quotation marks (“ ”):
This narrows the phrase down to the exact words within your quotation marks – the ‘John Smith’ we discussed.
Site Operator (site:):
Using “site:” followed by a website will limit your search to a specific site. For example, “site:linkedin.com John Smith” will only show profiles from LinkedIn for John Smith.
Wildcard Operator (*):
When you’re uncertain about a word or phrase within your search, use an asterisk. For example, “apple*nutrition” will help you find results related to apple nutrition, types, benefits, or recipes.
Filetype Operator (filetype:):
If you want to search for specific document types, like PDFs, Excel sheets, or PowerPoint presentations this file extension is the answer. For example, “filetype:pdf insurance fraud” will deliver PDF-only documents relative to the search.
Around Operator (around):
Use AROUND to specify that two terms should appear within a certain number of words of each other. For example, “machine learning AROUND(3) algorithms” will find pages where “machine learning” and “algorithms” appear within three words of each other.
Cache Operator (cache:):
Using this operator allows you to view Google’s cached version of a website. This can be helpful when the original page has been modified or taken down. Simply use “cache:” followed by the URL.
Link Operator (link:):
this operator will display web pages that link to a specified URL. It’s very handy for tracking backlinks to a particular source. For instance, “link:example.com” will show every page linked to example.com. As a lot of deep web is found internally on websites, this helps make sure you aren’t missing anything.
Date Operator (daterange:):
If you are looking for something over a specific date range you can use this followed by two dates. For example, “daterange:2022..2023 insurance regulations” will deliver results only from these dates. When you are researching something this can be of huge benefit to narrow the scope to more recent events.
Ready to Search?
The goal of using Open source intelligence tools is to access publicly available information to address a specific intelligence requirement. The tools you have learned here will allow you to scour Google faster, and more efficiently. While you can find relevant information on your cases through your own research there are entire departments dedicated to spending as much time and strategy necessary to get you the most important information.
If you need more OSINT resources or techniques reach out to our in-house digital investigations team and they can walk you through the needs of your cases.
Do you learn better through visuals? You can also sign up for one of our webinars that feature fresh, relevant, and free topics like OSINT. Check out our continuing education page for a topic that can interest you!
In case you ever decide to outsource your Open-Source intelligence-gathering needs, reach out to us. We will take your research to the next step and help you get results faster.