• With the war in Ukraine and the millions of video, photo and audio media available online, OSINT, open source intelligence, is experiencing a dramatic leap in popularity.

  • For Olivier Le Deuff, lecturer in information and communication sciences, “the fun aspect is no stranger to this enthusiasm”.

  • But with the proliferation of Osinters also appear dangers and biases that require a minimum supervision of the practice so that it retains its effectiveness.

Cluedo is your favorite game?

Inspector Maigret or Julie Lescaut, the idols of your childhood?

The magnifying glass and the raincoat, accessories that you dream of coming back into fashion?

Stop everything, we have guessed your attraction to investigations of all kinds.

And in 2022, it's happening online: here comes the Osint, for Open Sources Intelligence or ROSO, intelligence of open source origin, a huge field of open-air investigations on the war in Ukraine.

“The Russian invasion offered an opportunity for many journalists and indeed for a growing part of the French population to discover what Osint is.

The interest in this method of investigation is growing”, confided to

20 Minutes

recently , the Toulousain Baptiste Robert, “ethical hacker” and founder of Predicta Lab which creates tools to help these online investigators.

"Today, there are more and more Osint enthusiasts, they come from intelligence, monitoring, documentation, cybersecurity, journalism or investigation for the majority, notes Olivier Le Deuff, lecturer in information and communication sciences, and specialized in OSINT for about two years.

The fun aspect is no stranger to this craze, coupled with more easily accessible resources”.

“#OSINT means it's public, so it's fine”



NO, NO and NO.

You confuse the availability of your source (open) with the intelligence you add on top.

This is really important.



Before publishing anything think twice.

Think about the risks.

Again, it's not a game.

It's a war.

https://t.co/PmcW98Uc3r

— Baptiste Robert (@fs0c131y) March 15, 2022


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Osint, a giant cluedo?

“There is a very clear increase in the Osint hashtag, #Osint has become a skill in its own right on Twitter profiles, and in particular journalist profiles.

“, analyzes Olivier Le Deuff, who also created a year ago, the Osintosphere, a map bringing together the active actors of the Osint sphere.

He adds: “the Ukrainian context is proof that OSINT has moved from a territory of insiders and experts, to the margins, to the center of attention”.

At OpenFacto, the association of French-speaking Osinteurs, created in 2019, there is also a very marked increase in training requests, "since the start of the school year", according to Hervé, the president.

“At the start of the war, we saw a great deal of concern coming out of a lot of information about Ukraine.

It is then necessary to train and warn these newcomers of the dangers for them and for others.

Osint can be seen as a game, but its stakes are much more serious”.

Thank you

The growing interest in Osint can therefore be seen in particular on Twitter, where novices have quickly become specialists: this is the case with @Coupsure or @CasusBellii, whose first tweets on the subject did not more than three years.

And yet.

“Coupsure spends a lot of time analyzing images of the Ukrainian conflict,” notes Olivier Le Deuff.

It has become a reference”.

Work in progress on the USS Enterprise (CVN-80) in Newport News Shipbuilding's Dry Dock 12 is visible in Sentinel-2 images.

https://t.co/JZ4FPKoVHk pic.twitter.com/LUCLIboWxc

— Benjamin Pittet (@COUPSURE) June 24, 2022


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Before the war in Ukraine, the conflict in Syria also helped Osint to slip into its clothes of light.

“It was more complex because the communication networks and the Internet were cut, unlike Ukraine today, and the population was not systematically equipped with mobile phones.

We had to go via satellite”, explains Hervé from OpenFacto, who does not fail to underline the key role of Bellingcat.

“I was doing Osint in the early 2000s, but like Monsieur Jourdain, without knowing it was.

I came here largely because I work in the field of investigation.

And then I trained quite a bit with Bellingcat."

Bellingcat is the international and independent collective that has democratized open source investigation online.

"The founder Elliot Higgins wanted to know a little more about what was happening in Syria and could not find all the information in the traditional media", explains Olivier Le Deuff.

In the midst of unemployment in 2014, the Briton fell in love with this new discipline and created this open source data analysis site, intended for what he calls the community of “citizen journalists”.

Crew collaboration is the key

”.

Supervise the Osint to practice it better

But like any discipline that is becoming more widespread and seeing more and more people taking an interest in it, biases and other shortcomings are also increasing.

“In terms of Osint, it is increasingly important to do prevention, warns Hervé of OpenFacto.

Prevention for the Osinteurs, and for the people who could be directly affected by the investigations”.

Thus, he points to what he calls the “trauma of empathy or vicarious trauma”.

“A person who embarks on Osint can be contaminated by the traumatic experience of others,” he explains.

Faced with this plethora of violent videos and petrifying photos, “the Osinteur can develop moral fatigue, which can go as far as depression”.

Not to mention Jean de La Fontaine's hare syndrome: “some people thought the conflict was going to be very short, and they threw themselves into it.

However, a priori, the conflict will still last for many months, or even perhaps even years.

“, adds the president of the association.

And just like in the media, shortness of breath sets in quickly and can lead to negative weariness, or worse.

For Olivier Le Deuff, another risk of throwing yourself headlong into Osint is to manage to create links yourself: "by entering into a process of unlimited investigation, Osinteurs, overwhelmed, can switch in the conspiratorial camp”.

“We must not trivialize things”

All specialists also point out that this collection and analysis of open source data is linked to dramatic situations in real life.

"We shouldn't trivialize things.

Behind the information broadcast by interposed screen, there are people in territories at war where they risk their lives.

You have to think carefully beforehand about what you publish, insists Baptiste Robert.

Because, especially in the context of the war in Ukraine, the publications posted online are seen by all sides”.

“Unlike Stalin, who worked behind the Iron Curtain, Vladimir Putin must do so in broad daylight and in near transparency, which makes the free flow of information his worst enemy,” as the journalist Quentin Lafay put it. in an episode of "And now" on France Culture.

This is the very principle of Internet freedom, the opening of the field of possibilities and the appearance of a multiple-edged sword.

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