FOR THIS BLOG I WANT TO DISCUSS WHY OPEN-SOURCE INTELLIGENCE INVESTIGATIONS DON’T LIKE YOUR FEELINGS. YES YOUR FEELINGS ARE IRRELEVANT TO YOUR OSINT ANALYSIS.
Most, if not all, OSINT investigators and analysts will have encountered it many times during an investigation. You got the feeling that something was off or didn’t add up to the data you already collected. That feeling, often referred to as your gut feeling, is natural. In fact it is only human to have a hunch or have your gut tell you that something may be going on.
Yes I have those gut feelings too, heck it would be very weird if you have decades of experience and you didn’t develop a gut feeling specifically based upon all the cases you ever worked on. Experience builds knowledge and lessons learned. But not all past experiences and lessons learned seamlessly fit in that current case you are working on.
[image from: https://theromefoundation.org/hx-of-dgbi-rome/]
HUNCHES, FEELINGS AND BIAS
A hunch is mostly based upon a combination of assumptions and experience. It will most likely be a mix of knowledge of similar looking investigations and bias.
And don’t get me wrong it is ok to have feelings or hunches during your OSINT investigation but it can be a very huge problem if you blindly trust your gut.
Therefore it is key for a good OSINT investigator to understand what BIAS is and what kind of forms of BIASES there are out there.
Because if we know and learn about BIAS we become more aware of them and that helps YOU improve in becoming a better OSINT analyst. It also helps you to understand why YOU can’t always blindly trust your gut feelings.
Below a non exhaustive list of cognitive biases that you may want to learn about:
YOUR GUT FEELINGS DON’T MATTER, FACTS DO
This is why OSINT isn’t just randomly collecting data and only utilising that data that fits our scope and goals. Collecting data is most of the time the easy part. The hard part is to process and exploit the collected data and after that analyze the data to address the intelligence requirements that you want to have an answer to. And we must do all of that based upon facts and (stress)testing the trustworthiness and confidence levels of the resources we use.
But even though the collection part is easy, you can never ever be selective in what pieces of data you collect. Just because you have a FEELING that the piece or pieces of data you just found are or are not connected to your investigation doesn’t mean you should treat them as such. That gut feeling by itself isn’t wrong unless you are aware of the fact that it is just a FEELING. Test that feeling, ask questions!
Every Time you have a hunch or gut feeling you should ask yourself:
Why am I having this gut feeling or hunch?
What triggered me to have this hunch?
Based on what information?
What data that I collected supports this feeling/hunch?
What data that I collected rules out this feeling/hunch?
Can I find other sources that confirm and/or deny this feeling/hunch?
Is there BIAS involved?
What form of bias?
DOUBT MEANS DO ! If you doubt everything it means you will DO things to confirm or deny these doubts. Basically it is your task as an investigator or analyst to always doubt yourself. Doubt the decisions you make during your investigative steps. Doubt that you properly collected, exploited, processed and analyzed all the information within your investigation. Be your own devils advocate or let someone proofread your findings. A good high quality OSINT investigation is never about what YOU THINK or what YOU FEEL. A good high quality OSINT investigation addresses an Intelligence requirement that has a sound analysis based on facts that validated with full transparency. Show why certain things are connected, show your sources, show the evidence, the FACTS.