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Curated Data and Open Source Intelligence – A marriage made in Heaven

Author: Damian Barrow
Date: March 2023

The internet is big, let’s face it. When it comes to researching a person or company for investigation purposes, finding good quality and reliable data within vast amounts of open source intelligence (OSINT) is crucial and can be incredibly time consuming for internet investigators. How do you sort the wheat from the chaff without handpicking through your collected material? You can roll your own solutions of course, or you can enhance and corroborate your research with what’s called curated data. In this article, we explore the advantages and disadvantages of both curated and open source intelligence, and how they complement each other.

Curated data refers to information has been carefully selected and organised by experts in the field for a specific purpose or audience. It is evaluated for quality, relevance, accuracy, and completeness, making it a reliable and trustworthy source of information. This type of data carries more evidential weight in police investigations, where the case is built around factual evidence rather than circumstantial evidence or opinions. Facts carry weight sufficient to assist a jury to reach a verdict beyond all reasonable doubt in the UK, hence why open source and non-verified sources shouldn’t be relied on as standalone entities.

However, while curated data is an essential component of due diligence research and police investigations, open source intelligence (OSINT) can be a valuable complementary activity that enhances your research. OSINT refers to information that is publicly available and can be gathered from a variety of sources, such as social media, news articles, and government databases.

One example of using OSINT is monitoring social media activity. Social media can provide a wealth of information about an individual or company, including their interests, connections, and behaviour. By monitoring social media activity, you can gain valuable insights into their personality and potential risk factors. For example, if an individual posts frequently about risky or illegal behaviour, this may be a red flag that they pose a higher risk.

Another example of using OSINT is tracking news articles and publications. News articles can provide valuable information about a company’s financial performance, legal issues, and public perception. By monitoring news articles and publications, you can gain insights into any potential risks or challenges facing the company. For example, if a company is consistently receiving negative press coverage, this may be a red flag that they have reputational issues.

OSINT can also be used to verify information gathered from curated data sources. For example, if a curated data source provides information about an individual’s education or employment history, you can use OSINT to verify that information. This can help to ensure that the information you’re using is accurate and reliable.

Finally, OSINT can provide valuable real-time updates on current events or changes in a company’s or individual’s status. For example, if a company announces a new product launch or acquisition, this information may be available on social media or news articles before it is reflected in curated data sources. By monitoring OSINT sources, you can ensure that your research is up-to-date and relevant.

Open source intelligence sources are complex and vast, and traditional research processes are often insufficient for investigators trying to make sense of huge volumes of poorly or unstructured data which can be overwhelming. Investigators can and do risk missing critical information buried deep within unindexed sources.

That’s where automated tools can make a real difference. By automating the process of collating and structuring data, investigators can make the most of open source data, blend that with curated datasets and streamline their research processes. In addition, automated tools can help investigators stay up-to-date with real-time changes and updates in open source data which may not hit curated datasets. For example, news articles, social media posts or blogs can alter the intelligence picture. The automation tools built into Scout® save time and increase efficiency, allowing investigators to focus on analysing the data rather than simply collecting and compiling it.

About Synalogik

Synalogik deliver innovative solutions that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of compliance and fraud investigations through innovative software and unparalleled access to consumer and business data. Our flagship product is our data aggregation and automation platform Scout® which is unique in its capability to aggregate data from Synalogik, open, closed, third party and proprietary sources, allowing investigators and analysts to automate complex enhanced due diligence and fraud investigations. In addition to our third-party integrations, Synalogik offer a comprehensive package of our own data, including loan application and lists of disposable emails and telephone numbers; organisations benefit from greater insight, speed of deployment, and the ability to meet compliance needs and protect themselves from fraudulent actors more cost-effectively.

In 2022, we secured a Series A investment from Bill Currie and former Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy and, among other awards, the Queen’s Award for Innovation. Our current customers include Hasting Direct, The Insolvency Service, Entain, Betway, Buzz Bingo, BetVictor, AIG and Marble Arch Insurance.

Damian Barrow
With over 32 years experience as a Police Officer, and as the National Crime Agency's lead for Internet Intelligence and Investigation (i3), I was responsible for co-designing and implementing a national network of police and multi-agency investigators to tackle dark web criminality. I have also worked closely with the National Police Chiefs Council and government partners to deliver projects tackling high harm, as well as with international law enforcement agencies to collaborate on the investigation of offences facilitated by the dark web and cryptocurrency use. I now work with Synalogik to develop cutting-edge tools to support Internet Investigations for both UK Law Enforcement and the Private Sector.