OSINT to i3

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Lloyd explains how policing will move from collecting traditional ‘Open Source’ information to create a new ‘Internet Investigations and Intelligence’ capability, with the skills to match the digital age.

Feb 7, 2018

There has been a lot of talk recently across policing in relation to developing capabilities, building capacity and the changing nature of communication, contact and criminality. One such capability is Open Source, an area led nationally by Deputy Chief Constable Carl Foulkes. There are a number of definitions for Open Source information, however, the definition previously recognised by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) is: “Open Source is defined as publicly available information (ie, any member of the public could lawfully obtain the information by request or observation). It includes books, newspapers, journals, TV and radio broadcasts, newswires, internet www and newsgroups, mapping, imagery, photographs, commercial subscription databases and grey literature (conference proceedings and institute reports).” Law enforcement has derived value from Open Source information since the inception of policing, predating the internet and social media, by a couple of centuries. Those of us with longer memories will remember hard copy phone books and voters rolls littering police stations, from front counters to collators’ offices. How our techniques developed Prior to the internet, and in particular social media, Open Source information relating to individuals was generally limited to phone numbers and addresses, business information and whatever was published in mainstream media. All that has changed with the advent of the world wide web and digital technology. Researching the internet for available information has become the norm for many previously disparate law enforcement disciplines. This community includes strategic analysts, financial investigators (who scour large data sets drawn from credit agencies), intelligence operatives (who work covertly) and many more. Each discipline has approached this area with its own focus, presumptions and established processes. All the disciplines brought different and useful techniques to assist with researching the internet, however, they also brought elements that could conflict with each other. Moving forward, professional internet investigators need to build on all this previous experience and proven methodology and forge them into a single cohesive and professional capability. In recent decades there has been an unprecedented increase in the availability of information facilitated by the creation and development of the internet, as well as a seismic shift in the public’s perception of personal and private information. The nature of the information now available has changed significantly. An individual’s precise location can be tracked from minute to minute, as well as their personal opinions and associations. This information currently all falls under the banner Open Source. Open Source research is no longer the unobtrusive gathering of information from a number of clearly overt sources. The capability has the potential to impact on every aspect of policing. Social media monitoring is regularly used for both pre-planned, and spontaneous events, to provide real-time intelligence to ensure public safety and a swift response to any potential threats. It is an important tactic to locate missing persons and can be critical in the successful resolution of such enquiries. With regard to individuals who are wanted on warrant, there are examples of individuals who have been at large for several years being traced in a matter of minutes through online research. From monitoring community tensions and measuring success of media campaigns to targeting those involved in serious and organised crime or sexual exploiting children online, this capability has a significant role to play. The internet, social media and the general shift in society’s view of privacy have fundamentally changed the type and personal nature of the information that can be gathered through Open Source research. As law enforcement officers, our understanding and perception of private information and intrusion must evolve at the same pace. Recent guidance, from various bo

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