OSINT Collection Plan

What is a data collection plan?

A data collection plan is a key component of the collection phase of the intelligence cycle. It is vital for maximising the efficiency and effectiveness of threat intelligence efforts. This plan is a detailed document outlining the methods and steps for gathering information for a specific purpose, such as research, analysis or decision-making. It provides an outline for managing the entire data collection process from start to finish.

Intelligence professionals rely on a number of sources to sift through the sheer volume of data, and a detailed collection plan can provide a comprehensive list of relevant sources and methods that fit their needs. It acts as a guide for collecting data in a structured and organised way, and helps organisations avoid wasting resources on irrelevant or unusable data. Simply put, it is a set of instructions for gathering data effectively.

What steps are involved in collecting data?

While the steps may vary depending on the scale and nature of the data collection, a typical plan includes the following steps:

  1. Defining the objective – Clearly specify the goal of the data collection and what information needs to be collected
  2. Selecting data sources – Identify the sources from which the data will be collected; for example, databases, surveys, interviews or any other relevant sources of information
  3. Choosing data collection methods – Describe the techniques and tools that will be used to collect data, based on the type of data needed. This might involve surveys, questionnaires, interviews or other techniques.
  4. Preparing a schedule – Create a timetable that outlines when and how often data will be collected
  5. Laying out the steps – Provide detailed step-by-step instructions for how data should be collected
  6. Identifying the data collectors – Decide who will be responsible for collecting the data, whether through automation or manual collection. This could be individuals or teams within the organisation, or even external parties.
  7. Carrying out data validation and quality control checks – Conduct checks to maintain data quality, such as double-checking data, correcting any errors and verifying accuracy
  8. Storing data – Describe where and how collected data will be stored and secured to protect it from loss or unauthorised access
  9. Analysing data – Use the right methods and tools to analyse the data. Depending on the objectives, this could involve statistical analysis, content analysis or other techniques.
  10. Reporting – Explain how the results of the analysis will be presented. This could be through reports, charts, graphs or other formats.
  11. Archiving and documentation – Maintain detailed records of the entire data collection process and properly preserve and store the data for future reference or verification purposes
  12. Assessing risks and solutions – Identify possible risks or challenges in the data collection process and outline strategies to mitigate them
  13. Securing approvals and sign-off – Obtain the necessary approvals from relevant parties to proceed with the data collection plan

How does OSINT data collection work?

Open-source intelligence (OSINT) involves gathering information on a particular topic from publicly available sources such as websites, social media, forums, news articles, academic publications, public records and more. The goal is to find valuable information that can help with decision-making, investigating or staying informed. OSINT data collection is used by a wide range of groups, including government agencies, businesses, researchers, journalists and cybersecurity professionals. The process involves similar steps to regular data collection – with a few differences.

Firstly, source monitoring may involve more automated tools and services to effectively track changes on social media or websites. Web scraping tools or software, which can help to extract specific data from web pages, such as text, images or links, may also be used. Social media analytics tools can also be used to track trends, keywords and user activity on platforms.

Since the collected data may come from different sources and be in multiple formats, it will need to be assembled and organised before it can be analysed. Following analysis, the findings from the OSINT data collection are usually summarised in reports.

When engaging in OSINT data collection, it is important to follow ethical guidelines, respect privacy and not engage in hacking or other illegal activities to collect information. In addition to following legal and ethical guidelines, people must also ensure their own data privacy and security, as they might be exposed to risks when collecting OSINT.

How does Silobreaker help with OSINT data collection?

Silobreaker’s data-source agnostic approach means it can ingest and analyse data from the widest array of OSINT sources and provide a more comprehensive view of threats and intelligence. Its extensive and continuously growing range of OSINT data sources, both structured and unstructured, allows users to gather meaningful intelligence from publicly available sources.

Silobreaker helps users formulate PIRs and provides a centralised platform for accessing data from diverse public sources. It aids in OSINT data collection by:

  • Automatically collecting and compiling information from a vast array of sources – including news websites, blogs and social media platforms and forums, as well as premium sources and custom data – identifying links between the data sources
  • Providing visual representations of data, including charts and graphs, and making it easier to analyse and interpret information
  • Enabling users to create customised dashboards that display the information they find most relevant. This simplifies the data collection and analysis process
  • Permitting the exporting of data in various formats and simplifying the process of sharing information
  • Offering users the option to perform in-depth analysis of collected data and trend mapping

To learn more about how Silobreaker streamlines and enhances data collection, click here.