OSINT big data: A strategic opportunity for companies

Today’s business and security agendas are more diverse than ever before and incorporate a wide range of issues, activities and actors. At a time when we have more information readily available than ever before, being effective requires being not only informed, but ahead of the curve on all of the issues that matter to your business. Luckily, systems backed by semantic and cognitive technologies can help organizations access and make sense of a realm of information that can provide strategic advantage: OSINT big data.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency defines open source intelligence (OSINT) as information drawn from publicly available material “that contributes to our understanding of the world.” This information includes anything on the internet (news articles, blog posts, etc.), video, specialized journals, think tank studies, photos and geospatial information, as well as Tweets, and posts on Facebook and other social media. By nature, it is massive in volume and exists in formats that are unstructured (in other words, information that does not conform to typical database structure).

According to Information Week’s 2015 Analytics and BI Survey, organizations look to big data primarily for discovering correlations over many disparate sources of data (48%), predicting customer behavior (46%) and predicting sales for products and services (40%). For enterprises or government agencies in any sector, access to OSINT big data provides an important opportunity to not only bring these sources of information within reach, but make them available and manageable for data-driven insight and decision making.

Strategic opportunities offered by OSINT big data

  • Take advantage of all information: Rather than being limited to internal historical data, OSINT makes it possible to draw on information from multiple sources and disciplines for strategic information and intelligence. In addition to the sources listed above, these openly available sources also include things like public records, contract awards, budgetary data, census and other data made available by local, state and federal government levels, as well as scientific research, environmental data and open data sets made available by organizations and media outlets, and even information from the deep web. Organizations can benefit from exploiting this information for a number of uses: Assessments of security, competitors or third parties; and monitoring for global socio-political news, copyright infringement, fraud detection, and more.
  • Go deep and wide: A cognitive platform such as our Cogito Intelligence Platform supports gathering as much information as possible on a whole range of issues, which in turn enable spotting patterns, trends, signals and connections that would not be visible on a smaller scale. Naturally, all of this information will not be relevant to your business—in fact, much of it will be irrelevant. To focus only on the relevant information, you can filter out the information you don’t need, and zoom in with targeted criteria to learn more about specific areas.
  • Make sense of big data: Taking this even further, the combination of semantics and deep learning can make sense of OSINT big data—even terabytes and terabytes of big data—in just a few seconds. Using text analytics and other cognitive applications adds structure to data and provides an understanding of meaning in context, identifying categories, topics and people mentioned, even revealing sentiment. The end result is reduced ambiguity: The system can understand what a text is talking about without having to read it (and at a much deeper level than simple keyword or pattern matching applications provided by traditional technologies), at the scale of your information. This is extremely valuable given the human-centric nature of OSINT big data sources, and the global, diverse nature of security issues and business supply chains and operations where context and correlation of information is key.


Whether for privately held companies or government agencies, when it comes to tackling an organization’s most important challenges—security and intelligence, risk management, compliance to name a few—the insight possible through comprehensive, granular analysis of OSINT big data is a strategic opportunity.

We invite you to see how Cogito handles unstructured data: Try our demo today.


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