In today’s constantly evolving information landscape, the role of a well-informed and security-conscious Private Service Professional (PSP) has become increasingly important. Whether protecting confidential information or securing high-profile estates, PSPs play a critical role in safeguarding their principal’s reputation and assets. However, to effectively carry out their duties in protecting principal information, while providing superior service, they require relevant, timely, and up-to-date information. The ability to quickly obtain information that can be applied to day-to-day operations is a PSP’s superpower. From staying informed on current security risks to reserving the perfect restaurant for your principal’s family while on vacation, OSINT can greatly benefit every Private Service Professional.
What is OSINT
OSINT (Open-Source Intelligence) refers to collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information from publicly available sources, such as social media, news outlets, data brokers, and other numerous sources. OSINT is a powerful tool that can provide PSPs with valuable insights into potential threats and current events, giving them an edge to make informed decisions and take proactive measures to mitigate risks and perform well.
The Security Perspective
From a security perspective, OSINT can help in cases of doxxing, which involves publishing a principal’s personally identifiable information (PII) online without their consent in the hopes of eliciting a harmful response from third parties. Modern-day OSINT is conducted online as users upload terabytes of information to social media each day. Security teams often review multiple sources, including traditional and alternative social networks, data directories, brokers, breached data, and the dark web. Traditional social networks have the most users and, thus, the most data. Alternative social networks have a smaller user base but can still represent serious threats if overlooked. Data directories and brokers provide personal information, including criminal records, and sensitive information like banking, medical, and passport information that can turn up in breached data. Finally, the dark web consists of encrypted online content, including sites offering hacking services and data breaches for sale. By monitoring social media activity, one can identify patterns of behavior, such as stalking or harassment, and take appropriate measures to protect the principal. Additionally, OSINT can identify potential vulnerabilities in physical security systems, such as unsecured doors or windows, allowing estate security to take action to strengthen these areas. However, obtaining relevant information is not all about security, it also gives the PSP the ability to provide superior service.
The Private Service Perspective
From a private service perspective, one of the key benefits of OSINT is its ability to provide real-time situational awareness. By staying informed on social media feeds and other online sources, one quickly identifies potential issues and is able to respond accordingly. For example, let’s say your principal decides, last minute, to host a special guest for dinner, and the first course on the menu is a seafood salad. Conducting a little OSINT prior may reveal that the guest is allergic to shellfish, thus allowing time for an alternate course and preventing a potentially embarrassing situation.
On the other hand, suppose your principal is throwing a dinner party with guests he or she wishes to impress. OSINT could allow the PSP to know the personal preferences of all the guests, in detail, and be able to disseminate that information to the appropriate staff. This gives the staff an edge to provide better, insightful service.
Open-source intelligence (OSINT) can help PSPs spot threats, understand motivations, and implement quick, effective responses to protect the principal’s reputation. People can have various reasons for targeting your principal, ranging from kidnapping for ransom, to tarnishing a reputation, to a simple romantic obsession. OSINT can help to differentiate between the nefarious and the innocuous.
Here are some ways in which OSINT can support PSPs:
- Risk Assessment: OSINT provides PSPs with valuable information to help them assess potential risks and threats. This includes information on the client’s background, such as their personal and professional affiliations, past incidents or threats, and online presence. OSINT can also provide information on the principal’s location and potential threats in that area, such as crime statistics, local political instability, or recent incidents that may pose a risk to the client.
- Background Checks: OSINT can be used to conduct comprehensive background checks on individuals who may either be looking for a position or pose a risk. This includes researching their criminal history, identifying any past incidents of violence or threats, and checking their social media accounts for any signs of hostility or violent behavior. Information like this can also be utilized to verify work experience and help gauge if a potential hire would be a good fit.
- Social Media: social media has become a critical resource for PSPs to monitor potential embarrassment to their principal. OSINT tools can monitor social media platforms for any signs of potential risks to the principal or the reputation of their organization. Being aware of and removing posts that include things such as vulgar or threatening language or using specific hashtags or keywords while wearing the organization’s brand ensures a professional appearance. Left unchecked and people who wish to harm your client may use those posts against them.
- Geolocation: OSINT can be used to track the location of potential threats and protect the principal’s whereabouts. This includes monitoring social media posts’ location, identifying IP addresses used to access certain websites, and using satellite imagery to assess the surrounding area for any potential risks. Ensuring staff are not posting information with geotags or in real-time that could be used to locate the principal is a good practice.
- Reputation Management: OSINT can also monitor the client’s online reputation and identify any negative or potentially damaging content. This includes monitoring online reviews, news articles, and social media posts to identify negative comments or reviews that may harm the client’s reputation.
- Seamless Changes: recognizing a potential issue before they happen could be considered a primary function of intelligence. For PSPs, using OSINT to stay ahead of unpredictable problems enables them to adjust the plan, allowing for a seamless change that may very well go unnoticed.
Furthermore, OSINT can also produce relevant information that supports PSPs in conducting day-to-day operations such as schedule changes, choosing meeting locations, best transportation options, lodging, and more. For example, let’s say the principal is conducting business in Madrid, and the trip has been planned for weeks. As the personal assistant, you have accommodations, meeting venues, and a private car, all prepared well in advance. However, a quick OSINT exercise prior to departure reveals that all private transportation services are going on strike the week the principal is in town and are likely to shut down the street where you have booked your principal’s hotel due to a protest. Instead of dealing with a difficult situation on the ground, you’re able to adjust by moving to a hotel in a better location, ensuring the trip is a success in advance.
Overall, OSINT is a powerful tool and fantastic benefit that can significantly support PSPs. OSINT is essential in ensuring the security and privacy of principals. By conducting OSINT, it provides real-time situational awareness, access to a wide range of data sources, and insights into the methods used by potential threats. OSINT enables PSPs to make informed decisions and take proactive measures to mitigate risks, manage reputation and provide superior service.
Director of Privacy