Evaluating the core differences between Open source intelligence investigation and digital forensic investigation.

In this essay I will be outlining the investigational methods of open source intelligence and digital forensic investigations. I will also, be examining the differences and discussing the benefits that each of the investigations hold. Moreover, the investigational methods will be linked to real-life sectors and shown how they are used in the real world and how the benefits of each investigational approach favour the sectors in using one of the investigational method than the other.

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Open source intelligence investigation and digital forensic investigation are both different methods of being able to gather data and evidence. Open source intelligence investigation involves the process where in most cases a wide range of data that is publicly available can be found online and retrieved to give any investigator who is using the investigation technique a better understanding of the situation they are investigating to be able to progress through the investigation. Therefore, the types of data and information that is usually found by using open intelligence investigation is data that is usually either knowingly uploaded by the individual themselves or else it is has been uploaded by somebody else with their knowledge of the upload such as public records by the government. These types of data can be found on many platforms across the internet and a given example would be many social media platforms (E.g. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). Such data from platforms can reveal crucial data like someone’s age or address also, other types of data that can be found elsewhere across the internet is public records such as tax records, military records or even permits the person holds like a weapon permits (Scagliarini, 2016). In contrast, digital forensic investigation is a different investigational technique to open source intelligence. This investigation method involves being able to find data and information that is related to the investigation that usually is not open to the public to view therefore, meaning it is data that is usually hidden away from the public to keep it personal for individuals themselves and this can be found using this technique if any suspicion was found and needed to be investigated. So additionally, this means it involves highly skilled professionals in the field of digital forensic to be able to analyse through personal devices and online personal data to be able to find crucial evidence which can show a support or denial in the hypothesis that raised a caution for an investigation. (Strickland, 2008).

 

One of the main benefits of using open source intelligence as an investigation method is that it faces less risk of any legal issues. The reason behind this is because the data that is collected through this method of investigation is public which means it is information that is available for anyone to view. Therefore, any of this public data that is collected by the investigator is usually uploaded by the individual themselves knowingly that anyone can view the information uploaded. So, if any person were to collect this data that was out for anyone to view, there would be no problem in using any of the materials collected such as invading their personal privacy. However, when comparing this to digital forensic investigation it show’s the strong aspect of the benefits of open source intelligence. This is because digital forensic investigation is a method that can come under huge scrutiny of the process and how the investigation is carried out. As, mentioned before digital forensic investigation focuses on data and information that is not publicly available and collectable therefore it means having to investigate personal data. So, to make any evidence be liable in court, law enforcements need to consider ACPO guidelines and make sure not to break any rules and laws when processing evidence as they are using this method as an investigational method. Consequently, if any law is broken it will mean any evidence that arises from this illegal approach will not be valid. Therefore, this shows how digital forensic investigation can be a risky approach as there are a set of strict rules and laws placed to protect human rights against any of there personal matters being handled in an unrightfully method (Varone, 2008). Therefore, reflecting upon the point of the beneficial factor of using open source intelligence as having less legal issues as an approach of investigation can explain why it is a favoured and is a widely used method of investigation, as it carries less risk which makes it a huge advantageous method of investigation. Even though, pointing out the fact that open source intelligence can face less legal issues however, not as highly as digital forensics can face as an investigation method.

 

However, one of the main beneficial factors that uphold digital forensic investigation and why it used till now even though there are risk’s it’s because it can produce valid and compelling evidence which can in turn bring truth to the question that produced the need for an investigation. The reason is because the purpose of digital forensic investigation is the fact it can reveal information that is privately secure and in the context of private this would mean not all information about someone would be out in the public and to understand the situation involved within an investigation, law enforcements or anyone else investigating would need to look into personal devices if found suspicious of a crime and investigate through there devices legally and following the ACPO guidelines through this process. So, this type of investigation is used as a popular method within the law enforcement sector when they suspect an individual of a crime they would have the right to confiscate any device and intercept private messages and emails. This reason behind this is because criminals do not usually publicly share and promote their illegal activities online for everyone to see, therefore in majority cases they hide their illegal activity. So, as an example given if a person was convicted of hacking a business’s database to steal information they will usually try and hide any information away from the public and hide it in their personal computer and even if their computers was searched by anyone who isn’t a digital forensic analyst nothing would not be found. However, due to digital forensic investigation all these approaches criminal’s take to hide any of there illegal activities can be found. Therefore, when comparing this to open source intelligence which can only collect public data that is available for everyone to view which then means it cannot identify any personal hidden information that may be important to understand and enlighten the view of the investigation. So, as open source intelligence can not identify personal data that means it can not produce evidence that unveil the person is guilty of something, whereas digital forensic investigation can, and this is where the point is made when digital forensics is outlined to produce valid evidence as a benefit to the method. As, digital forensic investigation is focusing on data that is not available for everyone to view unless gone through a forensic analysis and by finding any hidden data from personal devices that belong to any suspect it points as the suspect highly guilty because of their actions to hide whatever was suspected from law enforcements or anyone one willing to investigate these matters (Murphy, 2007). So, digital forensic investigation holds a strong factor in producing evidence that signifies the guiltiness of someone to an action they are being suspected of which can show If someone committed these actions or not.

 

Pointing out one of the many main benefits of open source intelligence is how cost effective it can be for law enforcements as open source intelligence already focuses on information that is already revealed online and therefore does not need to undergo a process to discover any information that is unknown. Whereas, for digital forensic investigation it looks for information that is yet to be discovered that’s why it could take a long time and a lot of resources which can make it an expensive method. The resources that are used for open source intelligence investigation are not going to be very costly to use as an investigation method as it does not require such a massive number of people, this therefore means the sectors would not need to hire a large number of people and meaning that there wouldn’t be a lot of money spent. Even though, if more people were using open source intelligence to find the same objective of evidence then it would speed up the process of being able to find the intended information. However, anyone with a computer and has the ability and skills to browse through the internet can be able to find information about the situation being investigated. Also, it is important to point out that there would not be in need of software programme licenses that can be expensive as it only requires browsing through the internet, however if needed it would mean that is will only get bought for a few people. Whereas, comparing this to digital forensic investigation where they would require software programmes to be able to carry out their investigations and to be able to reveal hidden information through these software’s, it would mean a lot of money spent on software programme licenses. Moreover, digital forensics would be much more expensive method as it requires skilful and individuals that have the capabilities to be able to search through a computer to find any hidden information that can help with the investigation.  Therefore, knowing the cost effectiveness of this investigation method(open source intelligence) a lot of sectors that are involved in investigations would be in favour of using this method to find any information at first hand to bring any information that is publicly available to light and the information found online can be crucial for the investigation to progress. (Varone, 2008)

 

Therefore, when linking these types of investigational methods to a real-life sector like the law enforcements precisely the police they can use both investigational methods which can make it an immense beneficial feature for the law enforcements. This will mean the law enforcements can reduce cost affect, they can first use open source intelligence as an investigational method when investigating a case. This means that when law enforcements are newly exploring information that could be helpful in an investigation they can use open source intelligence as a first forward step of approach to the investigation, this is because they can first use open source intelligence to find any information not known before to the police which can help them going forward. For example, police can use open source intelligence as a first investigation method when someone’s committed a crime online such as stealing information through viruses. The police can find out a lot of information before the individual even knows there being investigated. They could find an individuals public records such as educational backgrounds to hold such skills to commit a crime and any permits they hold and address the person lives in. Therefore, this gives plenty of information about an individual and the likeliness someone has committed the offence, it can also reveal any location the suspect may be in if he/she owns more then one house and any weapon permits can show if the suspect can be dangerous. Then they can move onto digital forensic investigation where they can seize any devices likely to be involved in crimes and investigate through online personal messages, emails, and calls legally following the code of conduct. When digital forensic investigation is then being used to investigate further into the investigation to find any compelling evidence. These compelling evidences that are then found from this investigation type then can be used in the court of law to provide the evidence which can decide the truth of the hypothesis. This approach reduces cost because using open source intelligence as a first method of investigation expands and broads the knowledge of the sector of what they are investigating. This then can show if whether someone is very likely to do it or not by their past history information. If believed likely they then can deploy the resources which means they don’t need to deploy resources constantly which can cost a lot of money.

 

Moreover, one of the benefits of open source intelligence is the case where it is considered to be an investigative method where mostly anyone can use therefore, it is supposed as an easy method of investigation. It is certainly a more easy and widely useable investigative method when compared to digital forensic investigation. So, in this case it means that many sectors are able to gain information through open source intelligence, and therefore it is a widely used investigation technique. This in turn will have an effect of information production where there is going to be a lot of information in the public which in turn helps other sectors. One of the main sectors that can use open source intelligence as an investigation method and can’t use digital forensic investigation would be journalists as an example. Journalists jobs are too find information and undercover crucial data for the newspapers. So, in this case many of journalists can use open source intelligence with the access to the internet and they could find a lot of information as it is very easy. This is because of the amount of information readily available in the internet which can contain a range of data as mentioned before which can be public and personal records. When a highly trending news is on alert journalists would need to find information quick and easy therefore, open source intelligence is a very beneficial factor in this context to be able to produce information. Then when journalists are able to find information that may have been understated it can be brought into view publicly as a more known piece of information. This in turn can affect and benefit other sectors where if some other sectors where using open source intelligence and needed information about someone/situation they can use the information produced by the journalists. Therefore, showing the benefits of open source intelligence is the fact how easily it could be used by anyone and If it can be used by many people it can therefore, produce information readily for other sectors to use.

 

 

 

Bibliography
Scagliarini, L., 2016. OSINT: definition of Open Source INTelligence. Online Available at: http://www.expertsystem.com/what-is-osint/
Strickland, J., 2008. How computer forensics work. Online Available at: https://computer.howstuffworks.com/computer-forensic.htm