With the ever-present threat of hacking, it's vital to know how hackers are using OSINT in their work. Hackers can use this powerful tool in a variety of ways. Some may want to steal personal data, while others would like to use the information for more malicious purposes. These intentions could include business surveillance or even hacking entire companies.
So, what exactly is OSINT? What are the different types of OSINT data? And why do hackers use it to attack organizations and individuals? Here's everything you need to know.
What Is OSINT?
OSINT is the acronym for Open Source Intelligence. It's a type of intelligence tool used to collect public data for various purposes. The open, or public, part of OSINT means there are no restrictions on how you can use the data you've discovered. Unfortunately, this means it's legal to use OSINT as a data technique for cyberattacks.
However, not all uses for OSINT are malicious. Cybersecurity pros often use OSINT for their own benefits. They observe vulnerable data that hackers and cybercriminals could use to break into a company's network. It could be anything from passwords and login credentials to entire servers that hackers often exploit.
In the corporate world, OSINT is used for threat intelligence. This includes information about emerging threats from around the web. This can also include data breach disclosures, financial fraud schemes, cybersecurity incidents, and ransomware attacks. It's this type of private business info that hackers seek out when looking to initiate a cyberattack.
OSINT for Cybersecurity
CISOs (Chief Information Security Officers) can use OSINT as a tool to identify unprotected company data. After discovering a potential vulnerability in the organization, CISOs can present this information to their technical teams. Then, if they're concerned about their security policies, they can bring in experts who specialize in network security.
Cybersecurity teams can use OSINT to monitor for security breaches and attacks. They can use the tool to identify sensitive company information that malicious actors could use. Hackers can also use a variety of techniques to exploit a company's weaknesses, so OSINT is a great way to keep tabs on data.
Why Hackers Use OSINT
Hackers can use OSINT techniques to find vulnerabilities in an organization's web applications and infrastructure. This info could be used to exploit these weaknesses and gain access to sensitive data in their network.
The accuracy of data found online can be unreliable. This means hackers collect information from various sources before they plan an attack. OSINT makes data acquisition easy for hackers. It allows them access to a vast library of information they can use to make their attacks successful.
What's more, OSINT data doesn't have the same restrictions that other online data has. Information found on other websites can be protected by copyright law or contractual agreements. This means hackers can access this information without breaching any legal boundaries. It's the easiest way for them to gather data on potential targets.
How Do Hackers Use OSINT To Target Victims?
Hackers use OSINT when they want to gain more information about their target. It's a form of preparation before launching an attack. The intelligence part of OSINT is used by hackers looking for sensitive data. This data includes information about the types of tech used by an organization, vulnerabilities in that tech, and weaknesses in their security policies that hackers could use to infiltrate their network.
A simplified example of this would be looking up an individual's LinkedIn profile. The information found there is used to make connections with people who work at a company. Then, the hacker could send phishing emails asking them to visit a spoofed website. The site may ask for login credentials, which will then be used by the attacker to access the victim's email account and further infiltrate their network.
Ransomware attacks are a more complex example of hackers using OSINT. Typically, ransomware is sent via phishing emails that infect the system with malware. The malware then demands a ransom to unlock the files.
Types of OSINT Data Used in Cyberattacks
Hackers use OSINT to collect many types of data. Some of this sensitive info can include the following:
Personal info may include names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, and social media profiles like LinkedIn. Hackers can use this data to gain access to an individual's accounts and discover more about them. This data is used to build a basic profile of the intended victim and to conduct various attacks.
This type of data can include items like employment history, education, and any other information that's found on a person's professional networking sites. This information may be used to gain further access to someone's personal data. Infiltrating an entire company for large-scale cyberattacks is yet another possibility.
Technical data includes information like IP addresses, server names, application versions, and any other information that's used to further a hacker's goals. Hackers use this data to identify a person's technical environment and launch elaborate attacks.
How To Protect Yourself From an Attack
It's important to stay alert when dealing with your virtual data. Since OSINT makes information easily accessible with little online research, hackers can gather enough to launch attacks before their victims even realize what happened. Here are some tips for protecting yourself from cybercriminals:
Closely Monitor Your Passwords
Change your passwords often and keep track of the ones you've used recently, so they don't end up in the wrong hands. You should also make sure two-factor authentication is enabled (if possible) to prevent unauthorized changes to your account.
Make Your Social Media Accounts Private
You should avoid posting sensitive information on your social media accounts. Instead, only add friends you truly know and make sure to manually review any posts that appear before they go public. Having open social media accounts is one of the easiest ways for hackers to gather OSINT info about you.
Be Cautious When Exposing Data Online
It's important to be smart about the data you make available online. Keep your publicly accessible information limited since this is what hackers rely on for OSINT gathering. This is especially crucial on social media, where you may accidentally make certain information public without realizing it.
Become Aware of How Information Can Be Used Against You
Learn about common ways hackers try to steal your info. If someone sends you an email asking for personal information, do some research first to see if it's valid. If it’s not, call the company or person directly before responding, so you don't provide them with sensitive info. Additionally, never make online transactions using an unprotected system.
How To Protect Your Company From an Attack
Protecting your business from an attack all comes down to preparedness. Hackers have advanced skills and tools when gathering personal information. So if you want to keep them out of your private data, it's crucial to develop a strong cybersecurity plan:
Make sure you have security policies that show employees how to communicate online. You can use email encryption on your accounts so hackers need more than your login information to get into them. Keeping up with zero-day threats is also a great way to stay protected against new types of attacks.
Secure Your Infrastructure
Employees can make it easy for cybercriminals to get into their private information. An example is using insecure servers or storing their credentials on accessible computers. So take measures to secure your infrastructure. It is key to preventing many forms of OSINT threats.
Use Strong Passwords
Using strong passwords is one of the simplest ways to protect your business from attacks. Make sure to use letters, numbers, and special characters that aren't easy to guess or crack. Never disclose your passwords online since this will allow hackers full access to your account details.
You should train your employees to use the latest software updates and patches. This will help prevent them from getting exploited by hackers. And if you haven't updated a specific device in a while, consider replacing it. Buy the latest version that's up to date since older devices are more susceptible to attacks.
Hire a Professional Cybersecurity Team
Hiring a trained cybersecurity team is one of the best ways to ensure your company's data stays secure. Make sure you choose someone reputable who can perform regular security audits, implement strong countermeasures, and respond to any threats.
Signs You May Be a Victim of OSINT
While conducting OSINT research might seem harmless, hackers see it a different way. They can use it to discover personal and professional information about you. Watch for these signs to identify whether an OSINT attack is targeting you:
If you notice peers or family members start asking for money, sharing contact info with someone they usually wouldn't, or posting strange messages on social media accounts, you might be the target of an attack. So stay alert for any odd behavior and pay attention to who is trying to contact you.
You might suddenly become the target of phishing schemes if you start receiving suspicious emails that ask for personal information or direct you to a login page. It's best to avoid clicking on links in unsolicited messages no matter how real they may appear since they could lead you to an insecure website with malware.
Unfamiliar Network Activity
If you see strange network activity on your company's computer system, it could be a sign hackers are trying to find an exploitable vulnerability. Be sure to report any unusual activity to your employer and hire a professional cybersecurity team to conduct an in-depth investigation.
Steps for Recovering From an OSINT Attack
Restoring your online accounts is usually the first step for recovering from an attempt at OSINT information. If hackers have gained access to your email, social media accounts, or other types of personal data, quickly change all of your passwords and contact your internet service provider if any of these sites were hosted on their servers.
Restore Account Accesses
Restoring your online accounts is the first step to recovering from an attack. If hackers have gained access to your email, social media accounts, or other types of personal data, quickly change all of your passwords. This could stop further damage from being done.
Delete Compromised Accounts
Sometimes it makes more sense to delete the account entirely since damage may already be done. For example, suppose a hacker sent an email posing as you through your work email address. In that case, there's a chance they've learned sensitive company info about how employees communicate with each other during business hours.
Contact IT Support
If you want to stay safe after an attack, contacting IT support might be a good idea. They can do advanced research into what happened on your compromised device. Some examples include thorough security audits and identifying potential malware threats.
Hire A Professional
If an advanced attack struck you, consider hiring a professional cybersecurity team. They can help restore your accounts and provide security solutions against future attacks. They may even use OSINT research to identify the vulnerabilities that allowed the initial attack to occur.
Get Advanced Cybersecurity Protection With SecPoint
In a world where hackers use OSINT to gather personal data and use it for malicious purposes, it's essential to know how this powerful tool can be used.
If you're not sure what type of security measures your company should have in place to protect from these attacks, contact us today. SecPoint offers advanced cybersecurity products that will keep your organization safe from these threats so you can focus on running your company instead of worrying about dangerous security breaches.