OSINT and Terrorism

Terrorism can be defined as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against citizens, in the pursuit of political aims”.[1] Terrorism is a persistent issue throughout the world and as a country, we are constantly searching for tools to help us combat terrorism. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) proves to assist in the process of collection, linguistic translation, and analysis of data. It was found that 80% of the information that proved to be crucial was publicly available and found on the internet.[2] Social media is a way for terrorist groups to spread their ideology and recruit new members. It was found that from 2011 to 2016 56.27% of radicalization was done through social media as compared to 25% from 2005 to 2011.[3] The most commonly used platforms in the United States are Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

OSINT has become a helpful tool when combating terrorism, OSINT helps investigators create an accurate picture of a terrorist organization. It uses the collection of online databases, local and national newspapers, magazines, and journals.[4] It has been found that internet sites tend to provide the most revealing information about terrorist groups. These sites normally contain propaganda and information on terrorist operations. Oftentimes, terrorists might try and recruit by using social media. Platforms, such as Twitter, often ban these profiles which leads the subject to cyclically create accounts.[5]

the information that is gathered must be further confirmed. This leads to analysts further researching the data to confirm the information is reliable

OSINT is used by local and national LEAs and helps confirm and corroborate information that has been found. Due to the vast amount of information that agencies receive on a daily basis, analysis of OSINT is helpful to determine what information is valid. As we know OSINT is special in the sense that the intelligence is collected from publicly available open sources. These open sources are not under the command or control of any government; instead they are sources that are available to the public. While there are many types of other intelligence sources, OSINT is known for being the most accessible. With that being said, the information that is gathered must be further confirmed. This leads to analysts further researching the data to confirm the information is reliable.

When combined with other forms of intelligence, OSINT can prove to be extremely successful in combating terrorism. OSINT uses modern techniques to keep up to date with the constant change in social media and the constant change in technology.


  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26497093https://www.police1.com/investigations/articles/using-webint-and-osint-to-tackle-extremist-groups-Fvy2So5OzaAoNLTC/
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26497093
  3. https://www.start.umd.edu/pubs/START_PIRUS_UseOfSocialMediaByUSExtremists_ResearchBrief_July2018.pdf
  4. https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/tracking-terrorists-through-open-sources
  5. https://trendsresearch.org/insight/big-data-and-open-source-intelligence-a-game-changer-for-counter-terrorism/
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