A picture can speak a thousand words, give or take. During open and dark web intelligence investigations in particular, how data is visualized is hugely important if investigators are to understand the substantial amounts and variety of data that ends up being collected. Here are five tips for using visualizations to improve the results of your OSINT processes:
1. Collection should be the easy part
Manual collection of OSINT data is tedious and time-consuming to do manually, and it’s not something you want to do regularly or with individual tools. Automating these tasks speeds up the collection process to allow more time for analysis and navigating across fewer tools makes it easier to move from working to thinking without as many steps.
2. Don't let bias color the picture
We are all prone to human bias when interpreting external information, some of us more than others. It’s important to remember this during analysis and how data is presented can definitely impact the results. The availability bias is to think that examples of things that come readily to mind are more representative than is actually the case. If too much focus is paid to one piece of information on the screen, this can lead to fallacies. Even color can impact an interpretation. Having different pieces of color-coded data might lend one to thinking similar colored items are more similar than they in fact are, or specific colors might trigger specific types of thinking, such as the color red.
3. Linear data might only look that way
If data is only viewed in a linear way, one piece of information after another in sequence, it can lead one to view one piece of data as more important than others and relevance is relative. The only situation this should pop up is when it is intended, as in a timeline.
4. Interactive graphs draw connections between the data in a single screen
Graphs help draw relationships between various entities and assets during the OSINT collection and analysis process. It is possible to start matching up one to one, or many to one, relationships between your data, the actors, and the events you are trying to understand. Without graphs it is impossible to show all the data on a single screen. It also helps that many different options exist today that automate and map data automatically. Graphs can also help interpret a wide variety of data, more than is possible by other means.
5. Show, don't tell your data
One of the critical reasons visualizations matter so much is that once OSINT collection and analysis is done, that information needs to be shared with people and it needs to be easy for them to pinpoint and validate why certain recommendations are being made. To disseminate information to executives in particular, visualized data makes a big difference.
Visualizations and graphs are highly useful during open and dark web intelligence collection and analysis, which is why they are so widely used. That doesn’t mean there is a uniform way of doing it. Some solutions give you an edge over others.
That is why we have launched a massive update to Pathfinder to better help security teams analyze limitless amounts of web intelligence 30X faster. The Pathfinder Investigation Canvas improves the results of your OSINT collection and analysis process by automatically visualizing connections in an interactive graph. The investigation canvas doesn’t just let you explore the data, it is actionable too by consolidating pursuant steps in a robust OSINT Toolkit that can be accessed with one click. Security analysts and hunters are able to use Pathfinder to improve their ability to identify connections between entities and events, demonstrate relationships and communications between actors, and show commonalities across groups and networks.