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Is OSINT Making Traditional Investigative Techniques Obsolete?

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My name is Mark Fenton and I specialize in investigating online crimes. I am a Senior Investigator at Haywood Hunt & Associates Inc. I oversee and manage the OSINT Intelligence Division focusing on anything related to the Internet; background checks, locating individuals, corporate due diligence and personal online safety.

I often get asked, “With the amount of information found using open-source techniques, are traditional investigative methods becoming obsolete?”  The answer will always be a resounding “No.” 

While the amount of information found online can often rival that stored on police and government databases the two are very different.  Publicly available information may provide investigators with a biographical, three-dimensional, historical time shot of the person under investigation.  It often allows us a glimpse into the life of the individual: their likes, their loves, their work and often reveals information that their closest friends and family never knew. However, open-source information has one crucial flaw – it’s public.

Since the Internet is accessible to anyone with a computer it is now possible to post misinformation about anyone, or anything, at any time.  Why would someone do this? Well, for many reasons: to discredit, to mis-direct, for fun or for profit.  This is why it becomes crucial that information found online is not only verified but backed up through other legitimate sources.  I have witnessed first-hand seasoned investigators take what they find online as being fact without ever checking the source of the information.

On the other hand, government databases, while often accurate, tend to be two dimensional and offer up only known facts about an individual or event.  It is rare for an investigator to be able to get a “feel” for their subject based on this type of information.  However, when we gather open-source information, and have it verified through traditional investigative methods, we have an extremely accurate picture of the person and or event.

At Haywood Hunt we combine the best open-source techniques with traditional investigative methodologies to ensure that all of our investigations contain the most accurate, current and three-dimensional information available.

Using the Power of Public Records

Open-source intelligence sources are legal to access. Although not all sources of OSINT are free because some may require a purchase or a subscription, information that you can get from them is often well worth any fee. The real question is how do you figure out which information is helpful or not? How do you sift through so much information and know exactly what is important for a case or for the purpose you want? This is where hiring a private investigator can help. Conducting targeted searches and coming up with relevant data takes expertise as well as training. If you want to know how we can use OSINT to work for youcontact us at Haywood Hunt.

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