We provide technical and operational services and training and readiness solutions to public and private enterprises to discretely mitigate vulnerabilities derived from physical, technical, and criminal threats. Explore more from our director of training, Adam, about our training courses brought to you by our technical operations group to learn how you can best approach Publicly Available Information (PAI) and cultivate good research habits.
People often ask us for advice about the best way to “approach” Open-Source Intelligence Tools (OSINT) or PAI (Publicly Available Information) research and why our research training is so effective. The answer is equal parts pathological curiosity, mindfulness, and critical thinking. The most effective way to quickly understand any research approach given a person’s unique mission or focus demands: understand that the digital environment is an operational environment just as dynamic (if not more) than the physical environment when it comes to information storage and communication. The secret to operating in this environment can be summed up in three simple statements that I call the Zen of CASO (AD2, PAI, OSINT, etc.):
- Know Yourself and the Environment
- Know Your Tools and The Data Sources
- Know Your Question
Knowing Yourself And The Environment
Simple, right? Now start unpacking those statements. How are you capable in this realm and how much do you know about the environment? How will that impact your research? Critically look at how effective you are as a collector, a researcher, an analyst and ask how effective are you in those tasks? Each of those missions look at data and the gathering of data in different ways. Are you impeding your ability to find data because you are taking the most comfortable approach? What are your biases? Be honest. Are you pathologically curious or just looking to get the job done and finding the data you “know” to be true (confirmation bias without due diligence on data veracity)? If you are lacking in any of the answers asked above, are you training or learning to fill those critical capability gaps?
Knowing Your Tools and The Data Sources
Now take that critical thinking to the second statement. How well do you know your tools, and the data sources from which they draw? What kind of data can you reach by using different tools? How do you choose the tools you need? How do you establish veracity of the data/sources you are parsing/gathering/analyzing? How effective are you in the use of the tools? If you are researching subjects other than your personal cultural oeuvre, are you using data sources/tools that are used or can access data that is tied to the research subject? What kind of information space is supported via the local communications infrastructure?
Knowing Your Question
And now the brutally honest question: Do you even know what you are looking for and why? “Know Your Question” encompasses all that you are doing and want to know and answers the reason why you are in the digital information space in the first place. What is your intent? What is your end state? Your “Question” is much like a hypothesis question/statement, and you need to have an idea of numerous supporting questions that can help answer the hypothesis. From those questions you begin to divine the data sets and tools that you may need to find the information that can help support your mission. Knowing Yourself and the Environment will help identify gaps and biases as your plan out your approach to answer your Question(s). Taking all three statements and what they represent, and implementing them in an iterative process, will frame your best approach to PAI and good research habits.
Take Your Training To The Next Level
I invite everyone who would like to learn more about effective PAI research to check out our CASO and AD2 courses. Our range of programs for CASO include half-day engagements to 2-week certifications. Also, we offer a 1- week (5- day) public sector course called AD2 (Advanced Digital Discovery) that is designed to jump start anyone into using the iterative process I outlined above. For our government customers we offer our full 2- week flagship course called CASO. Hopefully those three statements will help you on your journey (or maybe even spark a new passion towards PAI). To view our full list of training and readiness solutions, please visit our website. Reach out to [email protected] to register for one of our training courses.