The CameraForensics guide to open-source intelligence

5 May, 2022

By Matt Burns

The CameraForensics guide to open-source intelligence

At CameraForensics, we make use of open-source data and software to produce open-source intelligence (OSINT). In doing so, we’re equipping our users with greater knowledge, capacity, and insight than ever before.

From leveraging open-source software to always introducing new capabilities to our platform, to indexing publicly available images, the open-source initiative and community have equipped us with vital tools in our fight to drive positive change.

But what exactly is open-source data, software and intelligence, how do we use it, and what are the challenges facing the open-source movement today? Before we tackle these questions, it’s important to understand the difference between the terms open-source intelligence and software. Doing so will help prevent any confusion and give greater clarity to the subjects that we’ll be tackling later.

Intelligence and software: what’s the difference?

Put simply, open-source intelligence is often used to refer to any information found and available online, and that is collected for a specific purpose. While not limited to the surface web or social media, examples of OSINT include:

  • Information gained from search engines
  • Images distributed through social networks
  • Online directories
  • Satellite navigation data
  • Forum posts
  • Published videos

Open-source software, on the other hand, is used to refer to the software that is distributed with exposed source code – literally open-source. This means that it can be altered or transformed by users that manipulate this source code. All this has led to the emergence of large communities passionate about transforming, modifying, or evolving software for enhanced capabilities or other use cases.

Want to learn the difference between open-source intelligence and software, or perhaps the deep and dark web? Read our full guide on some of the most commonly misunderstood tech terms.

Why do we use open-source software here at CameraForensics?

By combining the power of open-source software with our continued focus on research and development, we can achieve a wide range of benefits that help us progress our mission and support our global network.

Constant progression

Leveraging open-source software allows us to make use of the very latest innovations, processes, and models. Of course, we always put these through a rigorous testing process before implementing them within our platform.

This ensures that, in an industry of constant developments and rapid evolution, we’re able to provide our users with the best tools to support their investigations whenever possible.

Maintaining awareness of the current climate

Staying up to date with the current restrictions, focus, and priorities of the open-source community gives us a unique perspective into the very climate we’re tackling.

Empowered by this perspective, we can more accurately understand the areas in the online image intelligence market that needs further development, those in need of optimisation, or those that are potentially at risk of exploitation, to better prioritise our R&D projects.

Want to learn more about what we can gain from open-source intelligence and software? Read our full blog on what social media can tell us.

Interacting with like-minded partners to increase our collective potential

The open-source community is full of passionate and collaborative people, all dedicated to making and sharing innovative software that can truly make a difference.

By engaging with this thriving community, we may be able to open up possibilities for more partnerships. We strongly believe in our ethos that, together, we can do more. Interacting with this community of creators and engineers is just one example of this in action, as can be seen when we partnered with Julien Nioche from StormCrawler:

“I truly believe that StormCrawler is a direct product of invited collaboration and international participation. It’s a much larger project than what one individual could create, and more contributions are happening all the time. Users can make changes based on their specific needs, and companies can directly modify them for bespoke use cases.”

Interested in how an open-source partnership became the backbone of our web crawling capabilities? Read the full blog on how StormCrawler demonstrates the power of open source.

What are the challenges of using open-source software?

Using open-source software can boast a range of advantages for us here at CameraForensics, as well as for many other developers worldwide. However, there are unique challenges that we need to be aware of.

The nature of open-source software as a threat

While open-source software and processes are freely available to teams like us hoping to take full advantage of them, the nature of open-source software means that they are equally available to be explored and circulated by criminals.

This is an inherent and persistent threat, but we must recognise that the nature of the open-source community ensures that we are continuously developing new tools and processes to stay ahead of perpetrators.

Crowd-dependent innovation

Another challenge of open-source software lies in its dependence on crowdsourced innovation. The online community is thriving, as we’ve discussed before, but without a wide range of inputs from a variety of contributors worldwide, innovation could slow down.

This is why we’re dedicated to persistent R&D projects in-house, ensuring that we’re always developing new and unique capabilities to share with our global partners.

Dedicated to fighting against exploitation

Open-source software gifts us the collaborative power of a massive community of developers and engineers. By conducting our own rigorous testing processes, we can ensure that any results gained are standardised, secure, and reliable while discovering more capabilities to help fight against worldwide exploitation.

To learn more about our passion for continuous research and development, and how this helps us get closer to our mission, visit our R&D page to learn more.

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