The OSINT Cycle

The OSINT cycle, or intelligence cycle, describes the process of developing and transforming raw information into finished intelligence with the purpose of using the it in decision making and/or taking appropriate further actions based on those findings.

There are several different cycle, generally with 4 to 6 steps. To meet half-way let’s review a 5-steps OSINT cycle.

  • Planning
  • Gathering
  • Analyzing
  • Dissemination
  • Feedback

1. Planning

Planning is the first and perhaps the most important step. To grasp the importance of planning, we can quotei the 16th president of the United States:

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. ― Abraham Lincoln

Before information gathering, we need to clearly define what we are looking for. What kind of information do we wish to gather about our target? What is the purpose of our investigation?

We also need to ask ourself which tools and vectors of investigation will we use (library, published works etc)?

Now, the plan is not set in stone. Au contraire it needs to be tweaked along the way while we get new ideas and find better tools to conduct our activities.

In this step, we also identify, prioritize and validate intelligence requirements, ask for information, consider the availability of collected data etc.

2. Gathering

Making a collection of the gathered data. Gathering is only limited by our imagination and perhaps the tools we are using. The easiest way to start is to use some Google-fu.

3. Analyzing

Gathering a ton of data is a good start but is useless in and of itself. Analyzing, which involves validating the gathered information and making it usable, is another crucial step.

4. Dissemination

Dissemination is the transfer of knowledge: convey the intelligence to the consumer in an usable form; in other words: reporting. The format of the report can be written, imagery, database, PowerPoint etc.

If applicable, report should be peer reviewed from independent eyes in the same field but who has not participated in the conduct of the study. This is to ensure objectivity and increase likehood of valid and reliable report.

In practice, a disseminetion plan should be developed prior to the completion of the study.

5. Feedback

Gettign the feedback from the customer or client. This step ensure the gathered and disseminated information are correct, accurate, readable and comprehensible. Indeed, intelligence needs to serve the goal of the client going forward.