This guide is intended for early career practitioners or those wanting to transition to an OSINT job. It lays out fundamental building blocks that you should know about when learning OSINT. It's important to highlight that this is not the only way to become an OSINT practitioner. Nor is it a guaranteed way of finding an OSINT job quickly. It's best to view this guide as a reference point that you can use throughout your learning journey. It will be a living document with regular updates.
There are three main parts, covering the following aspects:
1) Theoretical concepts and other important basics - an often underestimated but critical part. It will lay the foundation for your OSINT knowledge. Here you'll learn about essential concepts and definitions like what is intelligence and what is OSINT? How does it differ from data and information? What's the difference between the internet and the world wide web? And many other important issues.
2) Practical skills at a basic to advanced level. This will equip you with commonly used techniques and tools as well as make you aware of when and in which context they can be used most effectively.
3) How to stay up to date in the world of OSINT.
Understanding the basics is critical. As with many other professions, it's not possible to jump straight in without having a bit of background knowledge. You wouldn't try to fix an electrical problem in your house without knowing how the electrical system works. Or at least we hope you wouldn't. The same applies for OSINT.
As an OSINT professional, you should be able to explain in simple and technical terms how you arrived at X, which tools and techniques you used as well as what they do and how they work, whilst highlighting gaps and limitations of your analysis. Without the background knowledge this wouldn't be possible.
Another important point that we at OSINT-JOBS.com want to stress is that OSINT should not be merely seen as a collection of links - OSINT is a multi-facetted profession that requires, depending on the job, a wide range of skills, including analytical and writing skills - just to name a few.
To get you started with some of the important basic concepts in OSINT, have a look at the following reading list. This should provide you with a good overview.
As noted earlier, this list is not exhaustive and we are going to add more reading material in the future. If you would like to share anything that you think should be on here, please let us know and we'll add it!
Once you understood some of the most important basic concepts in OSINT, it's time to gain some practical skills. There's no perfect or one way of doing this; however, we want to emphasise the importance of learning how to use search engines first. Yes, search engines!
In fact, once you understood how they actually work and how to use them effectively and efficiently, you can find any information you want and even specify the format, such as image, video, text or various other file formats. This is pretty powerful, if you think about it, as it opens up an unlimited number of use cases.
Similar to the importance of understanding basic concepts in OSINT, it is crucial to understand the time it takes to master specific OSINT skills. Geolocating photos and videos, for example, is probably one such skill that requires practice and sometimes an extraordinary amount of patience and tenacity. Reading case studies, watching YouTube tutorials, or practicing with QuizTime challenges can be immensely helpful when learning how to do it; but don't get fooled by how "easy" or "logical" it appears when going through case studies by others.
It's one thing to understand why the investigator in that case started with clue A and continued pursuing clue B and C to ultimately find the location. But it's another skill to make these decisions, especially when working under pressure and time constraints. The main point is here that OSINT skills can be learned by anyone but to truly master specific skills, patience and practice is required.
To help you start practicing some OSINT skills, we've collated this list of various blogs, projects and YouTube channels that have produced a wealth of OSINT knowledge - knowledge that is freely available to anyone in the world.
If you like to share resources that are not listed here, please get in touch!
Listening to podcasts is another great way to grow your OSINT skills. Here's a list of shows that regularly publish episodes - in no particular order:
For those who wish to follow a more structured and guided OSINT learning path, you should check out the OSINT Dojo - "a project that aims to guide those new to Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) through the first steps of their journey".
Most recently, Bellingcat's Giancarlo Fiorella has published a comprehensive guide that not only talks about the difference between OSINT and open source research but also provides very practical advice and guidance on how to get started. You can find it here: "First Steps to Getting Started in Open Source Research".
Keeping up with the latest news and techniques can be tedious. But don't worry there are many OSINT experts out there that have done the heavy lifting for you. The following resources, will show you where and how to keep up, so you can focus on learning and practicing:
Finally, As stated at the beginning, this guide should be seen as a reference point for your OSINT learning journey. All of the resources listed here are completely free. Nevertheless, we also want to stress the importance of professional training. Reading blog posts, reports, and other material are extremely helpful but professional training courses should not be disregarded. Being able to ask questions, receive specialist training in a wide range of areas, and practice in controlled environments will sharpen your OSINT skill set and advance your career.
We hope this guide will help you start your OSINT journey. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to get in touch with us via email (email@example.com) or reach out via Twitter.