Threat Intelligence 101

What is the OSINT Framework? How can you use it?

Posted: 12th March 2024
By: Esteban Borges

Discover the power of the OSINT framework, a useful tool in the landscape of intelligence gathering in our digital era. This guide cuts through the complexity, offering you a clear pathway to explore publicly available data across diverse sectors for security, strategic planning, or research purposes. Learn how to seamlessly integrate these tools into your own analysis.

Key Takeaways

  • The OSINT Framework provides a structured approach to gathering publicly available information, expanding in scope due to the internet and digital communications, and offering tools and techniques for open-source data analysis.
  • OSINT tools within the framework enable effective data harvesting from various online sources, including social media and search engines. They also extend to exploring the Deep and Dark Web, offering insights across multiple sectors.
  • Ethical considerations in OSINT gathering are crucial, requiring adherence to legal standards such as GDPR and the ethical collection of data, while respecting terms of service and maintaining transparency.

Exploring the OSINT Framework: A Primer

Open-source intelligence (OSINT) involves gathering publicly accessible data from sources like:

  • News articles
  • Social media posts
  • Government reports
  • Online forums
  • Other OSINT resources

The concept of OSINT originated in military intelligence settings where it was used for espionage and strategic intelligence through media like newspapers and radio broadcasts.

With the growth of the internet and digital communications, the scope and impact of OSINT have significantly expanded. The OSINT Framework provides a structured method for performing open-source intelligence tasks, benefiting security researchers, government agencies, and cybersecurity professionals in information gathering.

What is the OSINT Framework?

What is the OSINT Framework

Available via its official website, the main function of the OSINT Framework is to compile publicly available information from multiple online sources. Users can navigate by clicking on categories related to their investigation, such as Username, Email Address, or Domain Name, to view a list of relevant tools and access them directly for their research.

Structured with a systematic methodology, the OSINT Framework categorizes gathered information according to:

  • Source
  • Relevance
  • Type
  • Context

At its core, the OSINT Framework focuses on utilizing free tools and free OSINT resources to aid users in collecting valuable intelligence from the expanse of publicly available online data. It provides a range of tools and techniques for open-source data analysis.

Utilizing OSINT Tools for Effective Data Harvesting

The OSINT Framework, besides being an exhaustive source for data collection on multiple targets, can also function as a cybersecurity checklist for scrutinizing individuals or corporations. Tools like Shodan are used to find intelligence about devices and vulnerabilities, while Spyse collects data on websites, their owners, and associated servers.

TheHarvester searches for relevant information from public sources like search engines and social media platforms, displaying results including email addresses and social media profiles. Specialized tools like Spiderfoot integrate with multiple data sources for free and are easily accessible via platforms like GitHub. These tools and resources aid in obtaining real-time insights into current events, incidents, and trends to enhance situational awareness.

Search Engines and Directories

Search engines are crucial in the realm of OSINT. According to Statcounter, Baidu, owns a 61% market share in China, and Yandex, commanding over 71% of the Russian desktop search market (source: Statista), are essential for OSINT due to their widespread use. These search engines provide a wealth of localized data that can be leveraged for intelligence gathering.

Moreover, region-specific search engines such as Naver in South Korea and Seznam in the Czech Republic are particularly useful for OSINT, providing localized and tailored search results relevant to their respective areas. Privacy-focused search engines like DuckDuckGo are also vital for OSINT pursuits where users require searches unlinked to their personal browsing history.

Social Media Monitoring

Social media platforms offer a wealth of data for OSINT. Social Mention, a social media search engine, focuses on specific terms and phrases, pulling results from over one hundred social media platforms. This tool allows analysts to gather a vast amount of information from various platforms, enhancing their ability to gather comprehensive data.

Trendsmap is used to analyze trending Twitter keywords and hashtags, featuring a robust spam detection system to ensure trend authenticity. Similarly,Hashatit allows users to search and analyze active hashtags across multiple social media platforms, collecting related posts in one place. These tools considerably bolster social media monitoring capabilities, an important facet of OSINT.

Deep and Dark Web Exploration

The Deep and Dark Web, often seen as the internet’s underbelly, holds valuable information for OSINT. This part of the web is not indexed by conventional search engines and requires specialized tools like the Tor browser for access. TorBot, a Python-based OSINT tool for the dark web, is designed to crawl and index .onion sites, returning information such as page titles, addresses, and descriptions, while storing the results in a JSON format.

Incorporating dark web monitoring is essential for a comprehensive OSINT strategy, enabling ongoing surveillance of illicit activities. Maltego, used in conjunction with Elasticsearch and Kibana, allows analysts to visualize and analyze dark web data through storage and complex query execution. serves as a deep web search engine that gathers .onion URLs from the Tor network, creating a significant index of such content. These tools and resources assist in probing the deep and dark web, a key component of OSINT.

OSINT Framework Screenshot Source:

Beyond the Basics: Advanced Techniques in OSINT Framework

Delving deeper into the OSINT framework reveals advanced techniques furnishing valuable insights across multiple sectors. Industrial control systems (ICS), critical components of operational infrastructure, can be analyzed through advanced OSINT techniques, offering insights into companies, infrastructure, and technology relevant to the industrial sector. For a deeper understanding of how these and other intelligence insights can enhance the security and resilience of critical infrastructure, visit Recorded Future's discussion on attack surface intelligence for critical infrastructure.

The intelligence cycle, including the following stages, is vital in applying OSINT techniques alongside traditional intelligence gathering methods to generate actionable intelligence on industrial control systems:

  1. Preparation
  2. Collection
  3. Processing
  4. Analysis
  5. Dissemination

Techniques such as using advanced search operators, web scraping tools, and analyzing IP addresses enable analysts to identify potential emerging threats and uncover detailed information about industrial equipment, vulnerabilities, and security incidents related to industrial control systems.

Furthermore, analysis of documents like patent filings, technical manuals, and industry reports, coupled with data analysis tools, is instrumental in identifying trends, vulnerabilities, and operational insights about industrial control systems.

Open Source Intelligence for Various Sectors

The wide-ranging applicability across diverse fields signifies the versatility of OSINT. It enables organizations and individuals to gather information in real-time, supporting informed decision-making and providing early warnings of potential threats. Businesses leverage OSINT for gaining insights into competitor activities and market trends, which are essential for maintaining a competitive edge.

Investments in AI and machine learning have advanced the scope of OSINT applications, enabling large-scale intelligence collection and situational awareness. As a result, OSINT is increasingly being adopted across various fields, demonstrating its broad utility in different sectors.

Government and Law Enforcement

OSINT is a tool extensively utilized in the operations of government agencies and law enforcement. Agencies like the UK’s National Crime Agency and the U.S. FBI use OSINT to:

  • Investigate large-scale organized crime
  • Investigate international criminal activities
  • Apprehend offenders
  • Disrupt crimes, including different types of cybercrime, fraud, violent crimes, and terrorism

OSINT enables law enforcement agencies to effectively carry out their duties and maintain public safety.

In addition to combating cybercriminals, OSINT plays a critical role in identifying and understanding the activities of terror groups and extremists, aiding in predicting and preventing attacks. Publicly available data analyzed through OSINT helps government agencies prepare for and respond to natural disasters and public health crises. This wide range of applications demonstrates the immense value of OSINT to government and law enforcement agencies.

Corporate Security and Business Strategy

Within the corporate sphere, OSINT proves valuable in ensuring security and gaining a competitive advantage. Businesses leverage OSINT for insights into competitor activities and market trends, which are essential for maintaining a competitive edge. OSINT facilitates timely detection of sensitive data exposure, allowing cybersecurity teams to implement quick responses including security patches and containment measures.

By uncovering publicly accessible digital footprints, OSINT techniques are essential in conducting thorough cybersecurity assessments and intelligence gathering. The integration of OSINT data with broader cybersecurity intelligence processes allows for a comprehensive analysis of security risks and strategic, informed decision-making.

Ethical Considerations in OSINT Gathering

Despite the vast information OSINT provides, adhering to ethical guidelines during its collection remains paramount. The OSINT Framework emphasizes the importance of upholding ethical guidelines and complying with relevant laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for handling personal data in Europe. In specific countries like Germany, OSINT analysts must show a ‘legitimate interest’ in their investigations to ensure adherence to legal standards.

Ethical OSINT gathering involves respecting terms of service, refraining from using fake identities or hacking, and maintaining transparency about intentions with information collection. Documenting actions during OSINT investigations is essential for demonstrating accountability and ethical decision-making in line with regulatory and law enforcement guidelines.

Integrating OSINT with Other Cybersecurity Practices

OSINT is not a standalone tool; it can be amalgamated with other cybersecurity practices, such as information security point measures, to yield superior results. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is a critical tool used by cybersecurity professionals to identify compromised credentials, potential vulnerabilities within organizations, and overall cyber risks. It facilitates timely detection of sensitive data exposure, allowing cybersecurity teams to implement quick responses including security patches and containment measures.

OSINT complements internal cybersecurity measures by enriching the telemetry of security systems and providing penetration testers with actionable data on vulnerabilities. To transform OSINT into a practical asset for cybersecurity, raw data must be curated to ensure it possesses attributes like timeliness, verifiability, and a low false positive rate. Utilizing OSINT resources effectively can greatly enhance the overall security posture of an organization, and incorporating threat intelligence can further strengthen this approach.

Furthermore, OSINT complements internal cybersecurity measures by enriching security system telemetry and providing penetration testers with actionable data. This synergy is essential for curating raw data to ensure its timeliness, verifiability, and reliability. By effectively utilizing OSINT resources, organizations can significantly bolster their security posture, with threat intelligence playing a key role in this enhancement.

Incorporating new tool suggestions and exploring various tools expand the toolkit available for cybersecurity teams and OSINT researchers, offering more data for thorough analysis. This approach proves invaluable not only for cyber crime investigations but also for business intelligence. Moreover, OSINT's utility extends beyond cybersecurity, serving as an essential asset for news reporters and other professionals seeking to gain insights into current events. This broad applicability underscores OSINT's value across different domains, making it an indispensable tool in the digital age.

Enhancing OSINT Research with Community Contributions

The evolution of the OSINT Framework hinges on continuous learning and improvement, with community contributions significantly influencing this process. Individuals can contribute to the OSINT Framework by ensuring their suggested resources are publicly accessible and consulting the development guide for how to add content.

New resources can be suggested by first updating the ‘arf.json’ file with the required format, then submitting a pull request on the OSINT Framework’s GitHub for review. The creator of the OSINT Framework encourages diverse community contributions, even from those outside information security, by adding new search engines or modules, thereby diversifying the available tools.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the OSINT framework?

An OSINT framework is a tool for gathering information from free resources to help find OSINT resources. It aims to provide access to information without cost, although some sites may require registration or offer additional data for a fee.

Yes, the OSINT framework is legal because it only uses information available from public sources, making it completely legal and ethical to use.

Is OSINT free to use?

Yes, OSINT can be free to use, as there are various platforms and tools available at no cost, such as Maltego or basic web search tools. While some sources may require a subscription, most tools offer free versions.

What is the best OSINT?

The best OSINT tools include Google Dorks, Sherlock, Holehe, Shodan, The Harvard, PimEyes, and WHOIS Lookup, which can help you search for information effectively.

What is OSINT and why is it important?

OSINT, or open-source intelligence, is important as it allows organizations and individuals to gather real-time information from publicly available sources, supporting informed decision-making and providing early warnings of potential threats.


In summary, the OSINT Framework is a powerful tool that harnesses the power of publicly available data for intelligence gathering. From its humble beginnings as a military intelligence tool to its current applications in various sectors like government, law enforcement, and the corporate world, OSINT has proved its worth. With ethical considerations at its core, and the ability to integrate with other cybersecurity practices, it’s clear that OSINT is an indispensable tool in the digital age.

Take the OSINT intelligence gathering to the next level

For organizations looking to deepen their intelligence capabilities and stay ahead in the ever-evolving digital landscape, Recorded Future offers cutting-edge solutions that seamlessly integrate with the principles and tools outlined in the OSINT Framework. Our platform leverages the vast potential of OSINT, combined with advanced analytics, to provide actionable intelligence that empowers your decision-making processes. Book your demo today!

Esteban Borges Blog Author
Esteban Borges

Esteban is a seasoned security researcher and IT professional with over 20 years of experience, specializing in hardening systems and networks, leading blue team operations, and conducting thorough attack surface analysis to bolster cybersecurity defenses. He's also a skilled marketing expert, specializing in content strategy, technical SEO, and conversion rate optimization. His career includes roles as Security Researcher and Head of Marketing at SecurityTrails, before joining the team at Recorded Future.