How to use OSINT for better storytelling
The Hacks/Hackers Nairobi meetup in November trained journalists on how to use Open Source Intelligence for their stories.
Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) tools are readily available for journalists to enhance their storytelling and investigative pieces. However, it’s important for journalists to know what they can do with these tools and also how to use them safely.
Peter Numi, a cybersecurity expert and the facilitator of the event, outlined some basic rules for carrying out an OSINT investigation.
The first step is to set your intelligence goal. What exactly is it that you want to know? Once your intention is clear, you can then start with known data points such as the person’s name, company, etc. The next steps are to gather your tools and analyse the data gathered. Once this is done, you can then pivot using the new data points and validate the information.
What tools can you use to carry out an OSINT investigation?
Numi introduced participants to tools commonly used for OSINT and demonstrated how to use them. Some common OSINT tools include:
- Mozilla Firefox browser or Brave browser for MAC users.
- Tutanota: a secure email service with automatic encryption. Private by default, open source and free.
- Tails: a live operating system that you can start on almost any computer using a USB stick or a DVD. Aims at protecting your privacy and anonymity.
- The Wayback Machine: a digital archive of the internet.
- TweetDeck: a great tool for journalists interested in carrying out open source investigations because it allows you to track several accounts of people of interest and what they’re tweeting.
- uBlock Origin: An ad blocker. Helps you set your intelligence goal — what do you want to know?
Good Operation Security
Good Operation Security (OPSEC) is of utmost importance when conducting OSINT. One thing to note before identifying what tools to use is that it’s important to use tools where anonymity is maintained and you cannot be traced.
Do not use your personal social media profiles while conducting an investigation. Create a new/fake profile to maintain anonymity when necessary. Intelligence can be sourced from the internet, social media, public records, geospatial information, and traditional mass media.
Andela Fake News Hackathon teams present projects
The two teams that participated in the Andela Fake News Hackathon in Nairobi earlier in November also presented their ongoing projects at the meetup. Team See the Light, led by Catherine Wanjiru, showcased a machine learning model that fact checks the news online. ICODEAI, represented by Alan Kiplang’at and Christian Otieno, created a tool to detect visual image manipulations. The Andela Fake News Hackathon was supported by BBC News.
The worlds of hackers and journalists are coming together, as reporting goes digital and internet companies become media empires.
Journalists call themselves “hacks,” someone who can churn out words in any situation. Hackers use the digital equivalent of duct tape to whip out code.
Hacker-journalists try and bridge the two worlds. Hacks/Hackers Africa aims to bring all these people together — those who are working to help people make sense of our world. It’s for hackers exploring technologies to filter and visualize information, and for journalists who use technology to find and tell stories. In the age of information overload and collapse of traditional business models for legacy media, their work has become even more crucial.
Code for Africa, the continent’s largest #OpenData and civic technology initiative, recognises this and is spearheading the establishment of a network of Hacks/Hackers chapters across Africa to help bring together pioneers for collaborative projects and new ventures.